HARRISBURG – Responding to the COVID-19 fundraising challenges impacting first responder and other nonprofit organizations, the state House today approved legislation to ensure these nonprofits have other options to continue serving their communities, said Rep. Ryan Warner’s (R-Fayette/Westmoreland), prime sponsor of the measure.
House Bill 290
would authorize organizations that hold Small Games of Chance (SGOC) licenses to conduct certain raffles and drawings online through the pandemic and its immediate aftermath. Current law does not specifically allow the organizations to conduct online fundraisers. The bill was first introduced last session by Warner and the late Rep. Mike Reese.
“This bill is typical of Mike, as he was always looking for ways to help the community heroes – the men and women who volunteer their time to protect public safety and support our youth,” Warner said. “It’s a fitting tribute to him that we are advancing this bill to the Senate, but Mike would be the first to point out all that really matters is that we do everything we can to help the people who help our communities.
“For the majority of Pennsylvanians, the fire and ambulance services they rely upon to protect their health and safety are staffed by volunteers. We must make sure our first responders have the funds they need to keep their doors open and emergency vehicles running,” Warner continued. “Similarly, our veterans groups and other social organizations fund valuable scholarships, Scouting and youth sports opportunities that are so important to our kids’ growth and success. It is in everyone’s best interest to make sure these organizations can conduct vital fundraising activities despite the ongoing pandemic limitations.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person events to raffle popular gifts such as golf equipment and other items had become important community fundraisers. COVID-19 restrictions have greatly inhibited the organizations that rely on revenue from these events. Some have tried to be creative by moving their fundraising efforts online, but questions remain about whether such efforts are permitted by law, Warner said.
Current regulations and procedures do not expressly allow for online sales of SGOC but do prohibit licensees from accepting credit card and online payments from participants.
House Bill 290 would specifically authorize licensees to conduct online raffles and drawings, and use a mobile payment service (such as PayPal or Venmo) for payment; credit cards would not be permitted. Participants would have to be verified as residing within the Commonwealth and be at least 18 years of age. The bill also was amended to increase individual prize limits to $4,000 and weekly prize limits to $50,000to further aid fundraising efforts.
The changes would expire with the expiration of the COVID-19 disaster emergency or May 1, 2022, whichever is later.
The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Representative Ryan Warner
52nd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Patricia Hippler