Senator Frank Shurden, author of legislation to legalize charity raffles, is questioning the viability of an alternative solution suggested today by the State Attorney General and a House committee chairman who is currently stalling action on the bill.
SB 671 has already passed the State Senate and is awaiting action in the House Rules Committee, but committee chairman Rep. Russ Roach has refused to hear the bill.
"I'm just trying to make it possible for non-profit organizations like the Elks Club and local churches to hold charity raffles, but all I keep getting from opponents is a smokescreen that obscures the facts of the issue," said Senator Shurden.
Today, Roach released a memo from Attorney General Drew Edmondson's office which reiterated his opposition to the raffle bill and proposed a complex "alternative" to legalized charity raffles. Under the proposed alternative, non-profit groups could issue tickets for a raffle, but could not charge patrons for them. They could, however, request donations, reserving the right to cancel the raffle if the donations didn¹t somehow match the amount of the prize.
"That sounds more like a recipe for confusion than a common sense solution to the problem. I think it makes a lot more sense just to legalize charity raffles than to construct some elaborate scheme for wiring around the current law. We don't want to end up creating a situation where the cure is worse than the disease," said Senator Shurden.
Roach and the Attorney General have both contended that legalization of charity raffles will open the door for Indian tribes to conduct lotteries, but Senator Shurden disagrees. He pointed out that under federal gaming law, no tribe could set up a lottery without first negotiating a compact with the state and its governor.
"Even if a tribe wanted to start a lottery, it couldn't do it unless it got the written approval of the state of Oklahoma and the governor in a formal tribal compact. They would have the final say on any kind of gaming proposal. My legislation would have no impact at all," said Sen. Shurden.
The Henryetta legislator also noted that the state¹s special counsel on Indian gaming advised former Governor David Walters in 1992 that Oklahoma Indian tribes already had the right under state law to negotiate lottery compacts. No tribes have applied for such a compact.
"Some people claim if we legalize charity raffles today, we'll have a bunch of Indian lotteries overnight, and that just isn't true. Giving our non-profits the ability to legally hold raffles won¹t have any impact on the Indian gaming scene in Oklahoma, but it will help out a lot of charity organizations around the state," said Senator Shurden.
The lawmaker said people interested in SB 671 should remember three important points:
"All the facts indicate the best way to resolve this issue is to pass a law legalizing charity raffles. There is no legitimate reason not to hear SB 671. I would urge both Rep. Roach and the Attorney General to take a close look at these facts before they assume responsibility for killing a chance to help hundreds of non-profit organizations around the state," said Sen. Shurden.
Senator Shurden is urging supporters of SB 671 to contact Rep. Russ Roach and urge him to give the bill a fair hearing.