Letter to the editor

In defense of charitable raffles

March 12, 2013 

Early this month, Cindi Ross Scoppe’s column “Taking a Gamble on Charitable Gambling” was published in The State newspaper (Columbia) and then, regrettably, in The Sun News. Ironically, it was exactly three years ago that citizens were dumbfounded to hear U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi exclaim “We need to pass the bill [Obamacare] so you can find out what’s in it.” Ms. Scoppe’s misleading assertions mirror that Pelosi statement and offer a clear reminder to all that it’s important to thoroughly understand an issue before taking a position, much less arguing the case before the public. So let’s review the facts.

The Family Policy Council was helpful in crafting this legislation and moving it forward. They concluded that charitable “raffles” (not charitable “gambling”) are not addictive and are a reasonable and effective fundraising tool charities can use to help people in need.

It became painfully clear to nonprofits throughout South Carolina such as Shriners, Lions Clubs, Elks Lodges, and Catholic Charities (not professional gambling promoters) that charities could not meet the needs of the people in South Carolina without raffles. Charitable giving by the Lions Club dropped by more than $600,000 when they decided to end raffles in order to “obey the law and the Constitution.” Today, they’re faced with precious children waiting for urgently needed hearing aids and eye procedures. And the Shriners Children’s' Hospitals that provide critical care at no charge are now facing the real possibility that they may be forced to close a hospital without the aid of raffles.

Her column expresses no concern for the “unintended consequences” of the law as Ms. Scoppes apparently believes it’s better not to fund your children’s soccer league, gymnastics team or band than to raise funds with raffles; or to just “break the law” and have your raffles anyway. Of course, the penalty for this is one year in jail and a sizable monetary fine.

It is simply unfair to allow some nonprofits like the NRA to ignore the law while others such as the Lions, Shriners or Catholic Charities worked so hard to actually change a bad law for the good of all citizens. The Senate’s overwhelming support (38-1) for amending that bad law was a very good thing – especially now that the bill has procedures in place to protect it from abuse. We haven’t “softened our position on charity raffles,” Ms. Scoppe – we have clarified our position in defense of charitable giving.

The writer is a Republican state senator representing Horry, Georgetown and Charleston counties.

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