Commissioner’s statement regarding raffles/illegal lotteries

From my observations, there has been an uptick in the number of so-called “raffles” being run in the local area. This increase is both inside and outside the competitive pinball and classic arcade scene.

Unfortunately, not all of these are legal raffles. Some of them are illegal lotteries, either through willful or wanton disregard for state law. While I am not a lawyer and I don’t consider this to be legal advice, the law is pretty clear if you take the time to read it.

The first requirement under Texas law (Occupations Code § 2002) is that the money has to go to a qualified organization. Usually this is a 501(c) non-profit (not necessarily 501(c)(3) and not legally required to specifically be 501(c)(3)) that has existed for at least 3 years. There are other legally allowed beneficiaries such as volunteer fire departments and volunteer paramedic services.

It is never, ever, legal to raffle off an item and just get put the money in somebody’s pocket without it going through a qualified organization, no matter what the reason. If you do that, you’re running an illegal lottery, plain and simple. It is your right and your responsibility to determine who the qualified organization is. Personally, if I found out after the fact that I bought a ticket for an illegal lottery without realizing it, I would go ask for my money back. If you find yourself in this situation, what you do is up to you, and you may or may not decide to do that.

My authority as commissioner ends outside of the events run under the auspices of the Bayou City Pinball League. I can say that when I wrote the rule book, I did add rule 22.15 for a reason which requires commissioner approval for all raffle tickets sold at BCPL events. Outside of those events, you would do well to assume that something is not a legally authorized raffle without doing your homework and asking the questions.1 Someone running a legally compliant raffle should have no issue with those questions.

There are no legal restrictions on many other fundraisers like silent auctions. There are many other ways to leverage donated items for fundraising if you do not have the help of an organization which qualifies to legally run a raffle.

A large part of the reason I started to Bayou City Pinball League was to help restore the reputation of pinball as a game played by law abiding citizens. I believe this is a worthy goal and this is something that should still be an issue in 2023.


Shawn K. Quinn

Commissioner, Bayou City Pinball League

1Unless, of course, the questions have already been answered in an event annoucement/posting.

[Edited 2023-08-28 to fix speech-to-text glitch and add footnote.]

CANCELLED/RESCHEDULED Third Saturday Early Birds

Event to be rescheduled/relocated. See future announcements.

Where: ?
What: Eight game max matchplay/roundless robin.
How much: $5 entry with at least top 3 places paid (this is in addition to the entry fees/coin drop) All money outside of IFPA fees to be returned as prizes; if IFPA fees sponsored, 100% as prize payout.
Other details: Ties for first to be broken by one-game playoff; ties for lower places will remain unbroken with payouts adjusted as needed.
When: Start time TBD, days TBD.

Wednesdays on Westheimer League starting 7/19

When: Regular meets on July 19, August 2, 9, 16,23; September 6; playoffs on September 13. Start time 7:30 pm.
Dues: $20+$0.88 fee due on third week, payable via PayPal, Venmo, or Zelle only. (Credit cards okay via PayPal/Venmo.)
Format: Six games per meet, Max Matchplay/roundless robin format (two player games). Best 5 of 6 weeks determines standings for playoffs. One point for each win.)
Location: Poison Girl, 1641 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX. On-street parking in the area. Bus routes: 82 Westheimer (short walk from the Dunlavy Street stop), 56 Airline/Montrose and 27 Shepherd (0.6 mile walk from the Westheimer Road stop).

Players are highly encouraged to bring enough change (quarters) to cover all games they intend to play. Coin drop ranges from 50¢ to $1 depending on game.

Events in the works update

Expect a new weekly league to start in July, and twice-monthly tournaments to follow, both at locations to be determined. The league will be a completely different format to other leagues that have been held in the Houston area in the past. A corresponding updated rulebook will also be posted soon.

Work on the logo continues, but I cannot promise a date for it to be fully complete.

Socials at Einstein’s Katy

We’re having a couple of socials at Einstein’s Pub out in Katy (873 South Mason Road, corner of Cimarron Parkway, approx. 1 mile south of I-10) in preparation for possible future events (there and elsewhere). Wednesdays 5/17 and 5/24, possibly skipping 5/31 and continuing through June, 7:30pm.

As this may be a considerable drive for some of you, carpooling is encouraged if feasible.

The socials (and future league) at Poison Girl are temporarily on hold until/unless someone else is willing to host, but I do plan to resume them in July. There are other events in the process of being organized, though some are not going to be until the fall or winter.

[Edit: On hold, new schedule to be announced in the first week of June.]