Charitable Gaming And Bingo In Connecticut

In Connecticut, the law limits legal gambling tightly.

Connecticuters do have easy access to two tribal casinos on sovereign lands. Outside of that, though, there are few ways to gamble within the confines of state law. The state does allow non-profit agencies and other organizations in support of them to acquire licenses to host charitable gaming.

These events essentially act as fundraisers for non-profits. Inquiries about those permits go to to the Charitable Games Section of the Connecticut Gaming Division. Among the types of gaming permissible within these events are bazaars, bingo, raffles, and sealed ticket sales.

What are charitable gaming activities in Connecticut?

What’s most important is that these games are purely those of chance.

No games with any element of skill are permissible within this section. This part of the state code came about as a response to citizens and organizations demanding such options over the course of the 20th century.

Bingo became legal in 1939, while bazaars and raffles made their introduction in 1955. In 1987, sealed ticket sales became an option.

Some definitions to keep in mind, as laid out in state law:

  • Bazaar: “A place maintained by a sponsoring organization for the disposal of merchandise awards by means of chance.”
  • Raffle: “Arrangement for raising money by the sale of tickets, certain among which, as determined by chance after the sale, entitle the holders to prizes.”
  • Sealed ticket: “A card with tabs which, when pulled, expose pictures of various objects, symbols, or numbers and which entitles the holder of the ticket to receive a prize if the combination of objects, symbols, or numbers pictured matches what is determined to be a winning combination.”

What are the CT laws surrounding bingo?

In Connecticut, the law defining a bingo game is as straightforward as they come.

It starts with your everyday bingo card, featuring several rows and columns of numbers. As numbers are drawn “or otherwise obtained by chance,” players daub corresponding numbers on their cards. The first player to reach the specified pattern (straight line, diagonal, blackout, etc.) is the winner.

It’s important to note that individual municipalities can ban/limit bingo games within their jurisdictions. While planning an event, organizers should contact their municipal government to see if there are any such prohibitions.

The law also bars promotion and sponsorship unless the charitable organization itself is responsible for that sponsorship. Additionally, the charitable organization has to be at least two years old when it applies for a bingo license.

Who can host charitable gaming activities in Connecticut?

While properties of for-profit businesses can act as the physical venue for such gaming, those for-profit entities cannot actually operate the games, promote the event or apply for a permit. Only non-profit agencies can do those things.

According to state law, charitable gaming must be “sponsored and conducted exclusively” by:

  • Churches or religious organizations
  • Civic, service, or social clubs
  • Educational or charitable organizations
  • Fraternal or fraternal benefit societies
  • Municipalities acting through a committee designated to conduct a celebration of the municipality’s founding on its hundredth anniversary or any multiple thereof
  • Officially recognized organizations or associations of veterans of any war in which the United States has been engaged
  • Officially recognized volunteer fire companies
  • Political parties or town committees thereof

Whatever happened to the Games of Chance Act?

In 1972, the state expanded on charity gaming by allowing for secondary schools or organizations connected to such schools to apply for permits to hold “Las Vegas nights.”

Such a permit would allow the holder to conduct casino gaming to raise money for the school. This included a wide variety of table games, some of which had an element of skill to them like blackjack and poker variants. In January 2003, though, the state repealed this law.

Since then, there has been no legislative action to restore this type of charitable gaming. Anti-gambling interest groups that felt such events introduced minors to gambling in a way that could lead to problem gambling eventually proved successful in pushing their agenda.

They failed several times prior, however. Advocates for the events argued that the repeal would harm schools’ funding and threaten the rights of Connecticuters to gamble at tribal casinos.

The repeal also banned “money-wheel” games. These games involved a physical wheel that featured certain prizes of cash or objects designated upon it. Players spun the wheel and were entitled to the corresponding prize. As the spin of the wheel itself seemed to be an illegal action, some charity events have included variants upon this that don’t require players to spin a wheel.

For example, some organizations use a “blower ball” or “cage ball.” Operators place numbered balls in a container and move them by either a manual spin or using forced air. Chance determines a winning number that may correspond to numbers on tickets that players purchase prior to the action. The Connecticut Division of Gaming has advised these options as alternatives to money-wheels.