Rolling the dice on game nights

Jun. 23, 2013 @ 03:32 PM

A bill working its way through the N.C. General Assembly would legalize emphatically a fundraising practice used for years by nonprofit groups — gambling game nights that pony up contributions for causes.

House Bill 809 would clarify what state Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford, said is a gray area in state law that governs gambling in North Carolina. The bill would add language to authorize that nonprofit organizations can operate game nights to raise money from supporters.
“It’s a good fundraiser for nonprofits and organizations that are needing funding,” said Faircloth, a former chief of the High Point Police Department. “There’s an argument that it will foster more gambling. I don’t believe that. I think it’s viewed more as a social game.”
The Raleigh-based Christian Action League objects to the proposal because the group’s supporters fear passage of House Bill 809 would lead to further relaxation of laws against gambling. 
“The truth is this legislation is ‘the camel’s nose under the tent,’” the league contends.
But a leader of a High Point-based nonprofit defends game nights, saying they are a crucial fundraising technique. Game nights have become more critical in the wake of the Great Recession as other sources for funding have eroded, said Wil Elder, president and chief executive officer of the N.C. Shakespeare Festival.
Festival Stage of Winston-Salem, the sister organization to the Shakespeare Festival, has held successful, annual Jacks and Jokers game night fundraisers. Elder said that the Shakespeare Festival is considering whether to hold its own game night fundraiser in the future.
Faircloth said that a goal of House Bill 809 is to specify in the law that game nights for nonprofits aren’t illegal.
“We don’t want this to be in the shadows,” he said.
Opinion in the House is evenly split on the legislation, Faircloth said, and he’s not sure if the bill will clear the chamber before the upcoming end of this year’s legislative session. Other local cosponsors of House Bill 809 include Reps. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, and Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, according to the General Assembly web site.

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House Bill 809 would authorize nonprofit groups to operate so-called gambling game nights expressly to raise money for their organizations. Here are some provisions of the legislation:
A charitable group or other nonprofit holding a game night would have to receive a permit through the N.C. Department of Public Safety.
No more than four game nights could be held annually by one group. Each game night couldn’t exceed five hours per event.
No cash prizes can be awarded.
Games that would be permitted include roulette, blackjack, poker and craps.