Small Games of Chance
The Pennsylvania Crimes Code provides that all forms of gambling are illegal unless the Pennsylvania legislature specifically authorizes the gambling activity by statute.
Gambling exists when there is a payment of consideration or a fee or something of value for the opportunity for a prize or reward, the winner of which is determined by chance. Effectively, the three elements are: (1) consideration, (2) chance and (3) prize or reward.
Authorized Forms of Gambling
Currently, the only authorized and legal forms of gambling in Pennsylvania are:
- Those gambling activities conducted pursuant to the Race Horse Industry Reform Act
- Those gambling activities conducted pursuant to the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act
- Pennsylvania Lottery
- Bingo conducted pursuant to the Bingo Law
- Those gambling activities conducted pursuant to the Local Option Small Games of Chance Act
- Those gambling activities conducted pursuant to the Sport Raffle Charities Act
Small Games of Chance Act
The Pennsylvania Local Option Small Games of Chance Act was passed in 1988 and has been amended several times since its enactment, most notably by Acts 2 and 184 of 2012 and Acts 90 and 92 of 2013.
The small games of chance law authorizes certain non-profit organizations, known as eligible organizations (including club licensees), and for-profit taverns to conduct limited types of gambling.
An eligible organization is one of the following types of entities:
- A charitable, religious, fraternal or veterans' organization
- A club, civic and service association
- An affiliated non-profit organization of a major league sports team
An eligible organization must be in existence and fulfilling its purpose for 1 year in order to be eligible for a Games of Chance License. (Please refer to the Law for a complete definition of eligible organizations.)
Types of Games
Licensed eligible organizations are authorized to conduct the following games of chance:
- Pull-tab games
- Raffles (including special permit raffles)
- Daily drawings
- Weekly drawings
- 50/50 drawings
- Race Right Games
- Pools (State law allows this form of gambling, but federal law overrides making it illegal in the state of Pennsylvania)
Types of Licenses
There are 2 types of licenses available to eligible organizations: A regular license and a monthly license. An eligible organization may conduct all forms of games of chance under either license type.
A regular license is an annual license, and the term runs for a calendar year from the date of issuance. The fee for an annual license is $125.
A monthly license is valid for 30 consecutive days from the date of issuance. There is no restriction on the number of monthly licenses an eligible organization may obtain, but the licenses may not overlap. The fee for a monthly license is $25.
Special Raffle Permits
Special Raffle Permits are available to regular and monthly license holders. The special raffle permit authorizes a holder to conduct a raffle that exceeds the normal prize limits applicable to games of chance. The normal prize limit is something valued under $2,000, if prize value exceeds this then a special raffle permit is needed. As a general rule, a licensed eligible organization may obtain up to 10 special raffle permits. Total prizes awarded under all special raffle permits may not exceed $150,000. Volunteer fire, ambulance, rescue or conservation organizations may obtain up to 12 special raffle permits and award up to $250,000 in prizes. For a licensed eligible organization with a regular license, the organization can receive either 10 or 12 special raffle permits during the annual license term. Because a licensed eligible organization that obtains only a monthly license does not have an annual licensed term, such an organization may receive no more than 10 or 12 special permits in any calendar year. The fee for a Special Raffle Permit is $25. Applications must be submitted to the County Treasurer in order to be considered for a special permit.
Note: No Debit cards or Credit cards will be accepted for payment. Only Check, Cash, or Money Order is allowed!
- Pennsylvania Department of Revenue
- Pennsylvania State Police: It is recommended that you consult with your organization's legal counsel to determine how the Small Games of Chance Act applies to your organization.
- Small Games of Chance Overview (PDF)
- Small Games of Chance Act as Amended in 2013 (PDF)
For additional assistance, please email Licensing Coordinator, Lisa Norton, or call her at 717-771-9224.
For law violations or non-compliance issues, contact Detective Paul Pelaia with the District Attorney's Office at 717-771-9600 ext. 3094.