NASHVILLE -- Tennessee-based nonprofit groups -- churches, schools, hospitals, civic service clubs and others -- collectively grossed $23.5 million over the past three years from charitable fundraisers featuring raffles, cakewalks and similar games of chance, figures show.
On Nov. 4, voters will decide whether to add veterans' service organizations such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans to the list of groups eligible to hold annual gambling fundraisers.
The state House and Senate approved 145 such fundraisers this year. Groups may not raise money using pulltabs, punchboards, bingo, instant bingo, casino games like keno, slot machines and roulette wheels and games of a type operated by the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp.
In the 2014 fiscal year ending June 30, dozens of groups collectively grossed $8.3 million, according to Blake Fontenay, a spokesman for Secretary of State Tre Hargett. That includes money from concessions and other items sold. No collective figures on net proceeds going to charity were available.
Groups are required to submit paperwork to the state showing how much money was raised from the games and spent on prizes and costs of conducting the games such as renting a site.
At least 25 percent of gross receipts must go toward charitable purposes. A group that fails to meet that standard two years running is permanently banned from applying again.
Individual filings show the Ooltewah High School Band Boosters in Hamilton County raised $12,200 for its cause last year. The group reported $24,189 in gross revenue, including some donations. It had total expenditures of $11,989 with $8,914 going to prices including gift cards and checks.
The $12,200 it netted represented 54 percent of its gross revenue.
Complaints or reports falling outside the Charitable Solicitations and Gambling's jurisdiction are referred to local district attorneys general, according to Fontenay.
"We feel like the process is working well," Hargett said. "Certainly, it can only be as effective as district attorneys general want to follow up on them [complaint referrals]."
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550.