Not everyone can conduct a raffle

Dec. 17, 2010 at 6:17 a.m.
Updated Dec. 18, 2010 at 6:18 a.m.

By Richard Alderman

I am a member of a small organization that wants to raise money. We thought a raffle would be a good idea. We hope to raise about $1,000. Is it legal to hold a raffle?

Under Texas law, a raffle is defined as the award of one or more prizes by chance at a single occasion among a single pool or group of persons who have paid or promised a thing of value for a ticket that represents a chance to win a prize. As a general rule, conducting a raffle is illegal. The Charitable Raffle Enabling Act, however, permits certain "qualified organizations" to hold up to two raffles per calendar year. In general, a qualified organization is:

1. A nonprofit association organized primarily for religious purposes that has been in existence in Texas for at least 10 years;

2. A nonprofit volunteer emergency medical service that does not pay its members other than nominal compensation;

3. A nonprofit volunteer fire department that operates fire-fighting equipment, provides fire-fighting services, and does not pay its members other than nominal compensation; or

4. A nonprofit organization that has existed for at least three preceding years and is exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c), Internal Revenue Code.

If your organization is a qualified organization, it may legally conduct a raffle. The law regarding raffles, however, can get complicated. I suggest you review it,

My former roommate left, taking my television with him. It cost almost $1,500. Can I sue him in small claims court to get it back?

Yes and no. You can sue in small claims court, but only for monetary relief. In other words, you cannot sue to have the court order your friend to return the television, but you can sue for what it will cost to replace it. You won't get back that particular television, but you may recover funds sufficient to buy another. My guess is that rather than run the risk of a judgment against him, he will simply return the set.

Three years ago, my wife and I signed a note to buy a car. Our divorce decree says my wife gets the car and that she has the obligation to pay the note. She stopped paying and now the bank is asking me to pay. What are my legal obligations?

Basically, a divorce decree is between the parties to the divorce. It does not affect existing creditors. In other words, you and your ex-wife have agreed that she will pay the note. As far as the bank is concerned, however, you both still owe the money. If your wife does not pay as promised, the bank has the right to seek payment from you. If you pay, however, you in turn have the right to seek payment from your ex-wife. It is not a defense, however, to say to the bank, "the divorce decree says my wife will pay this."

How much should it cost to have a living will prepared?

I know that some people charge a fee for a living will, but if you want the best price, go to the "Wills, Living Wills and Powers of Attorney" section on my website and download one for free. The living will, or Advanced Directive as it is formally known, is a state designated form and it is easy to fill out.

For a free living will and other information about your legal rights, visit

Richard Alderman, a consumer advocate popularly known as "the People's Lawyer," is a professor at the University of Houston Law School in Houston. His column appears weekly in the Victoria Advocate. Write to him at UH Law Center, Houston, Texas 77204-6391. He also maintains a Web page at



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