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I am currently trying to sell my car. However, it is very rare and relatively expensive, and finding a buyer is a slow process. However, everywhere I go I get compliments and people say they would love to buy it if they could afford it.

I often see charities raffling cars. In those cases they may sell $200,000 worth of tickets for a $50,000 car. I've been told it is illegal for anyone other than a non-profit to do this; I never verified that but it makes sense to me. I do not wish to run a raffle to make an unfair personal profit.

If I limit the number of tickets so that total ticket sales are lower than the bluebook value of the car, would it be legal for me to run the raffle as a means to sell my car? Assume this is in Pennsylvania, Washington County specifically.

  • I edited the title to "Pennsylvania". This would be regulated by state law, not federal, and we can't address all the states in one question. – Nate Eldredge May 16 '17 at 16:21
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First, please note that we do not give legal advice on this site. Here is some general information about gambling laws in Pennsylvania, but if you are planning to do something and want to know whether it is legal, you will have to hire a lawyer.

I believe this sort of thing would be a lottery under Pennsylvania law, which is prohibited in Consolidated Statutes Title 18 § 5512:

(a) Status of activity.--All unlawful lotteries or numbers games are hereby declared to be common nuisances. Every transfer of property which shall be in pursuance of any unlawful lottery or numbers game is hereby declared to be invalid and void.

(b) Offense defined.--A person is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree if he:

  1. sets up, or maintains, any lottery or numbers game;
  2. manufactures or prints, or sells, exposes for sale or has in his possession with intent to sell any unlawful lottery or numbers ticket or share, or any writing, token or other device purporting or intending to entitle the holder or bearer, or any other person, to any prize to be drawn or obtained in any lottery, or numbers game; or
  3. publishes any advertisement of any lottery or numbers game.

It doesn't appear to matter whether you are making a profit or not.

A first degree misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and up to five years imprisonment.

There is a process to get a license or permit to conduct "small games of chance", which includes raffles, but it generally has to be organized by a recognized non-profit organization for charitable purposes. Additional permits are needed if the prize is to exceed $2000. (There is also a provision for "tavern games", which can be run by a bar or similar business, but in this case the prizes are limited to $2000 with no exceptions.) Here is a summary from the state Department of Revenue, which also has a good general overview of gambling laws.

  • Thank you. I would definitely consult a lawyer before moving ahead with something like this, but would prefer to gain a better understanding myself before deciding to move to that level. I'm sure many others feel the same and will find this question in the future, and your answer is a great launching point for that understanding. – Nicholas May 16 '17 at 16:11

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