Op Ed: In defense of charitable raffles

  • Thursday, March 14, 2013

By Sen. Ray Cleary
SC Senate District 34

Early this month, Cindi Ross Scoppe’s guest editorial “Taking A Gamble on Charitable Gambling” was first published in The State newspaper (Columbia). Ironically, it was exactly three years ago that citizens were dumbfounded to hear Rep. Nancy Pelosi exclaim “We need to pass the bill (Obamacare) so you can find out what’s in it.”
Ms. Scoppe’s misleading editorial mirrors that Pelosi statement and offers 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”) is not addictive and is a reasonable and effective fundraising tool charities can use to help people in need.

It became painfully clear to non-profits 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 editorial expresses no concern with 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 sizeable monetary fine.

It is simply unfair to allow some non-profits 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.

Ray Cleary is a banker and a dentist and represents part of Georgetown County in the South Carolina Senate.

Opinions that appear on this page in Letters to the Editor or in columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.

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