If the Texas Rangers head back to the playoffs next year — or in any future year — fans might well be able to bring home a souvenir that’s better than a foul ball.
They might be able to bring home a fistful of cash.
But that depends on voters this November.
Texans will head to the polls Nov. 3 to weigh in on seven constitutional amendments, one of which would let professional sports teams hold 50-50 raffles at home games — during the regular season and playoffs — that would give half the winnings to a local charity and half to a lucky individual.
If approved, these raffles could be held locally at Rangers games, or those for the Cowboys, Stars, Mavericks or FC Dallas.
This is a key change, supporters say, because nonprofits currently may operate raffles only twice a year. They can give out prizes ranging from houses to cars, but not cash.
“It’s time to do this,” said state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, who proposed this amendment. “Anything we can do to help the charitable pro sports teams, I think we ought to do it.”
Supporters say the raffles, already held in two dozen states that have professional sports teams, would let sports charities help more local people and causes. Critics have expressed concern that it could open the door to expanded gambling in Texas.
It’s time to do this. Anything we can do to help the charitable pro sports teams, I think we ought to do it.
State Rep. Charlie Geren
This proposition — which authorizes “the legislature to permit professional sports team charitable foundations to conduct charitable raffles” — is No. 4 on the constitutional amendment ballot. It also is known as House Joint Resolution 73.
Other amendments on the ballot touch on issues ranging from homestead exemptions to where some elected state officials should live.
Doing more for the community
Earlier this year, Geren filed a bill and a resolution to allow 50-50 raffles at the request of the Texas Rangers, who spearheaded the issue on behalf of 10 professional sports teams in Texas.
Instead of raffling a house or car twice a year, this proposal would let the team hold one raffle every home game, whether pre-, post- or regular season.
“Texas is already a generous state,” said Karin Morris, executive director of the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation, which works to improve the lives of area youths. “Our people are generous and our sports team foundations are generous.
“Proposition 4 just allows for folks to buy charitable raffle tickets at pro sporting events with half the proceeds going to our nonprofit foundations — directly into our communities and schools — and the other half going to the winner of the raffle,” she said. “That’s all Prop 4 does. And that’s all we want it to do.”
The Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation, for instance, was created in 1991 and has given more than $14 million to the community through everything from baseball programs to scholarships.
Morris and others say the change in raffle protocol would let the foundation — and other similar charitable groups statewide — do more.
“We want to have the ability to give back in the communities we serve,” Reid Ryan, president of the Houston Astros, told a House committee considering the issue earlier this year. “We have [a] wonderful opportunity.”
How it works
Dollars raised from the raffles vary from team to team and state to state.
In some states, they can raise around $8,000 per game, which could mean $4,000 for a charity and $4,000 for a lucky fan.
And total proceeds for team foundations can range anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million, Morris said.
An increase in funding locally could help with needs ranging from school programs to Special Olympics.
In some states, 50-50 raffles can raise around $8,000 per game, which could mean $4,000 for a charity and $4,000 for a lucky fan.
“The impact on the community, particularly here in North Texas where we are home to five professional sport team foundations, would be significant,” she said.
“Fans of these [professional sports] teams and the team foundations would be able to make lasting change in schools, in parks and recreation, in the lives of members of the military, and beyond if this would be approved by the voters of Texas.”
If the proposition is approved by voters, eligible sports team charitable groups could hold one raffle per home game starting Jan. 1.
Tickets could be sold during the game. And the winning ticket number could be announced at any time — perhaps during the seventh-inning stretch at a baseball game or during halftime at a football game.
“This allows [the charitable sports foundations] to grow the size of their charities,” Geren said. “The pro sports charities contribute to a lot of good things.”
As the bill allowing the raffles wound its way through the Legislature this year, some Texans opposed to the expansion of gambling were worried.
“Our concern is turning games into instant electronic forms of gambling,” said Rob Kohler, a consultant with the Austin-based Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, which opposes increased gambling. “We’ve seen attempts with bingo and sweepstakes operating out there.
“We didn’t want to give any opportunity for raffles to be hijacked.”
But after talking with lawmakers, Kohler said he realized this was not an attempt to provide a new electronic form of wagering.
“Our concern is on the introduction of slot machines or slot machines by another name in the state,” he said. “This is not that.”
Rodger Weems, chairman of the Arlington-based Stop Predatory Gambling Texas group, agreed.
“The objectionable language which we believe could have opened the door to slot-like machines was removed,” he said. “So long as there is a true 50-50 split, paper tickets and no video or electronic sales, we do not oppose the amendment, even though we oppose gambling on principle.”
Texas sports teams
Foundations and charities representing 10 professional sports teams in Texas could hold the 50-50 raffles, if Texas voters approve the constitutional amendment allowing them. The charities and foundations representing the following teams could participate:
Major League Baseball
Houston Astros, Texas Rangers
Major League Soccer
Houston Dynamo, FC Dallas
National Football League
Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys
National Hockey League
National Basketball Association
Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets