Raffle ban remains in place for the diocese

COLUMBIA—The Diocese of Charleston’s Presbyteral Council, which helps the bishop govern, voted unanimously to maintain the diocesan ban on raffles.

The decision came as a disappointment to parishes and schools that were hoping a recent change in South Carolina law would open the door for more fundraising opportunities.

Recently, the General Assembly passed a referendum that allowed non-profit organizations, including churches, to conduct raffles. The new law went into effect in April. Prior to the amendment, S.C. state law banned all games of chance, with the one exception being the education lottery.

Michael Acquilano, director of the South Carolina Catholic Conference, said parishes and schools had asked the diocese if they would be permitted to conduct nonprofit raffles after the new law went into effect.

“The Presbyteral Council, by unanimous vote, offered their recommendation to [Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone] that the diocese refrain from permitting non-profit raffles and other games of chance,” Acquilano wrote in an email. “This decision was based upon in-depth research of the new law and the regulations surrounding its implementation. The regulations are extremely onerous and would cause great confusion to those trying to comply with the new law.”

Games of chance, including raffles and bingo, have been banned by diocesan bishops since the 1980s, according to Msgr. Richard D. Harris, vicar general, who addressed the issue in a 2010 letter to parish and school leaders.

The “no raffles” rule has always been difficult for some people to understand, especially those who come from states where raffles and bingo are commonplace.

Schools and parishes have had to use creative thinking to replace the profits from those popular draws.

For example, a raffle held in conjunction with the annual Chocolate Festival hosted by St. Mary Help of Christians School in Aiken used to bring in thousands of dollars in extra revenue, according to an earlier statement by Peggy Wertz, principal.

Creativity and community involvement will continue to be key in light of the continued ban on raffles.

However, while none of the parishes, schools, or ministries may conduct a raffle, certain groups, such as the Knights of Columbus, are exempt.

Acquilano said “any organization that is separately incorporated” is free from the no-raffles rule.