A raffle is a gambling competition in which people obtain numbered tickets, each ticket having the chance of winning a prize. At a set time, the winners are drawn from a container holding a copy of every number. The drawn tickets are checked against a collection of prizes with numbers attached to them, and the holder of the ticket wins the prize.
The raffle is a popular game in numerous countries and is often held to raise funds for a specific charity or event.
A raffle often involves several different possible prizes that can be won, and a ticket will be drawn from the group at random for each of the prizes. In this manner, people are not buying tickets to win a specific prize, but for the possibility of winning any of the prizes, as the prizes do not have specific numbers attached. A ticket is drawn for the initial prize; that ticket is then left out of the container. A second ticket is then drawn for the next prize, and that ticket also is discarded, and so on. This continues until all prizes have been won.
A common practice for increasing revenue from ticket sales is to offer bulk sales of tickets, e.g., $10 per single ticket or $25 for three tickets, although this practice is illegal in some countries. In many places raffles are only legal for registered nonprofits. Players tend to spend more money on bulk tickets believing they have a much better chance of winning. Since the tickets cost little to produce, and the prize expense has been set, the number of tickets sold creates little or no additional cost for the raffle holders.
Nonprofits who run raffles raise more money than more traditional ways of raising money because people are more willing to donate to an organization when they have a chance to win a prize.
Tombola is a raffle which originates in Southern Italy and which is mostly played at Christmas time. Prizes are often only of symbolic value. With the Italian massive emigration of the 19th and 20th centuries, the game was exported abroad and it took different forms and names such as Bingo.
The process may be employed, where legal, to dispose of a high-value item such as a horse, car or real estate. One example was American-Australian photographer Townsend Duryea's raffling off his yacht "Coquette" in 1858.
Where the prize is a valuable work of art, the process may be termed an art union, particularly where the beneficiary is the originating artist. Australian artists who have disposed of their works in this way include Alfred Felton and James Ashton.
In the United Kingdom, raffles occasionally are held to circumvent licensing laws. While only licensed premises are permitted to sell alcoholic beverages, there is no restriction on the offering of alcoholic beverages as prizes in raffles. At some events, attendees can enter a raffle where prizes include alcoholic drink(s). In the UK the term "tombola" is used when the raffle tickets are placed in a barrel and tumbled before the winning tickets are drawn from the barrel. The tombola booth is commonly used as a fund raising event for local fetes.
In Australia, meat raffles are commonplace in pubs and registered clubs. Trays of meat or seafood are raffled to raise money for a cause, often a local sporting club. Similar raffles are held in Minnesota and Rhode Island.
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A cash raffle is when the prize is a fraction of the total of the earnings. It is illegal in some places.
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- W. S. Ransom (ed.) The Australian National Dictionary Oxford University Press, Melbourne 1988 ISBN 0 19 554736 5
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