Can my Nonprofit hold a Poker Tournament or Casino Night Fundraiser?

Question: Can my Nonprofit hold a Poker Tournament or Casino Night Fundraiser?

Answer: Unlike raffles and bingo, there is NO exception to the gambling law in Texas for nonprofits to hold poker or casino night fundraising events. The gambling law, Chapter 47 of the Penal Code, applies to nonprofits and to for profits equally. See Tex. Pen. Code Ann. §47 (Vernon 2003). Basically, there are three parts to an activity that could make it illegal gambling: 1) money or anything of value is paid to enter the game; 2) the winners are decided by a game of chance and 3) prizes of value are awarded. If all three of those conditions are met, then it’s probably gambling and illegal.

If the game is free to enter, then prizes of value may be awarded. If an entry fee is charged, then prizes of value may not be awarded. There are some exceptions to this rule, including certain carnival contests in which prizes with a value of less than $25 are awarded and mechanical devices for amusement purposes in which prizes with a value of less than $5 are awarded. If your organization is considering conducting an event involving a game of chance, you should consult Chapter 47 of the Penal Code to determine its legality.