Texas Politics

Winning formula? Texas Motor Speedway, more sports teams want in on 50-50 raffles

Signs such as these, offering fans the chance to “Take Home Half the Jackpot,” were carried around the stands last season at home games for the Texas Rangers. It was a way to promote the 50-50 charitable raffles — and give fans a chance to buy tickets from their seats.
Signs such as these, offering fans the chance to “Take Home Half the Jackpot,” were carried around the stands last season at home games for the Texas Rangers. It was a way to promote the 50-50 charitable raffles — and give fans a chance to buy tickets from their seats. Star-Telegram

NASCAR races could get even more interesting soon at the Texas Motor Speedway.

If Texas lawmakers give the OK, fans would have the chance to walk away with a wad of cash by buying raffle tickets during races.

One lucky winner would claim half the jackpot — and the other half would go to local charities. The size of jackpots would depend on sales, but they’ve been as high as $65,000 at Dallas Cowboys games, where the drawings already are legal.

“This is a good thing,” said Eddie Gossage, president of the speedway. “There’s no negative to this.”

State lawmakers in 2015 approved a plan to let 10 professional sports teams in Texas hold these fundraisers known as 50-50 raffles during sporting events, and voters also approved the plan.

This year, more bills are filed to let TMS — and sports groups ranging from minor league baseball teams to women’s soccer teams — participate as well.

Last year, more than $1.7 million was raised during 50-50 raffles in Texas, sending a number of sports fans home with extra cash and raising money for charitable work that ranged from boosting youth sports programs to helping families of the Dallas police officers killed last year, according to a survey conducted by the Star-Telegram.

Gossage said he wants the Speedway Children’s Charities, which already has donated more than $10 million to youth groups in North Texas, to be able to hold these raffles as well and raise even more money for local needs.

“I lit up when I saw the opportunity existed,” Gossage said. “We draw a big crowd and this is yet another opportunity to raise money to help the kids.”

New proposals

At issue this session in Austin are a handful of measures to let more sports teams’ charitable foundations hold charitable raffles in Texas.

State Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, filed House Bill 2764 and a proposed constitutional amendment, House Joint Resolution 91, to let 50-50 raffles be held at the Texas Motor Speedway as soon as Dec. 1.

To become law, lawmakers must approve both bills, Gov. Greg Abbott must sign them and Texas voters in November would have to approve the constitutional amendment allowing the raffles at the speedway.

At the same time, state Reps. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, and John Kuempel, R-Seguin, have identical proposals — HB 1405, HB 3125, HJR 81 and HJR 100 — to let more professional sports teams’ charitable foundations conduct 50-50 raffles. Companion measures — SJR 49 and SB 1337 — have been filed in the Senate.

These proposals would let 50-50 raffles also be held at other Texas sporting events, including those hosted by the American Hockey League, ECHL (formerly known as the East Coast Hockey League), the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, Minor League Baseball, the National Basketball Association Development League, the National Women’s Soccer League, the Major Arena Soccer League and the United Soccer League, according to Gutierrez’s office.

The current legislative session runs through May 29.

Big bucks

As Texas prepares to potentially allow more 50-50 raffles at sporting events, the Star-Telegram reached out to the original 10 professional sports teams allowed to conduct these raffles to see how the first year went.

Dallas Cowboys fans were drawn to the raffles, buying nearly $700,000 in tickets during 11 home games last year.

That meant the Gene and Jerry Jones Foundation was able to give $325,790 to The Salvation Army and hand out the same amount to lucky fans attending the games.

Jackpots ranged from $5,000 during a preseason game to $65,000 during a postseason game.

“The Dallas Cowboys appreciate our fans joining us in doing the most good for The Salvation Army this season,” said Charlotte Jones Anderson, executive vice president and chief brand officer for the Dallas Cowboys. “Our family has a long history with The Salvation Army and we know the distance that our donation will go in their hands.”

The Salvation Army used raffle revenue to help with outreach efforts such as youth after-school and sports programs and domestic violence and homeless shelters. It also used some funds for veterans programs, hunger relief efforts, Christmas assistance efforts and programs at The Salvation Army Youth Education Town in Arlington.

It also was able to use it to send two teams from its Cedar Crest football program to the American Youth Football National Championship in Orlando, Fla. For many of the children, this was their first time to travel out of state.

“We were thrilled the Dallas Cowboys chose The Salvation Army to benefit from the 50/50 raffle,” said Maj. Jonathan Rich, The Salvation Army DFW Metroplex commander. “Our partnership goes back over 25 years and it makes complete sense that when the Cowboys needed a beneficiary of these funds they chose us, knowing the funding would help meet important needs here in North Texas.”

One of the Cowboys fans who won last year bought a winning ticket during her first visit to AT&T Stadium.

“It was an unforgettable experience,” said Thelma Ruelas, who won the raffle during the Dallas Cowboys-Baltimore Ravens game. “The staff member who sold me the ticket is now my angel. I thank God and the Dallas Cowboys for blessing me and my family in this way.”

Officials say the jackpot from the Dallas Cowboys divisional playoff game against the Green Bay Packers — which reached $131,832 — was the highest 50-50 raffle drawing of any Texas professional sports team.

The Houston Astros drew their fair share of Share2Care 50-50 Raffle buyers as well, selling nearly $900,000 worth of tickets at their home games last year.

That meant the Astros Foundation was able to give nearly $450,000 to lucky winners and donate the same amount to charitable efforts.

Officials say the foundation used the money to help programs such as the Astros MLB Youth Academy, RBI and JrRBI programs and Community Leaders programs. Funds also were used to help American Red Cross Disaster Relief efforts for victims of flooding in Houston and Louisiana, according to the team.

Helping North Texas charities

The Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation didn’t release any raffle ticket sales numbers.

But officials said they were “very pleased” with the support they saw from Rangers fans during the first year of the Texas Two Split.

“We were able to raise significant funds to support Rangers Foundation programs, including the construction of the new Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy at Mercy Street Sports Complex, presented by Toyota, as well as to support community initiatives like the Line of Duty Fund that supported the families of the Fallen Officers from July’s tragedy in Dallas,” said Karin Morris, executive director of the foundation.

“We look forward to continuing the program in 2017 and look forward to supporting the community in an even bigger way.”

At the same time, the Mavs Foundation raised more than $100,000 through the Dallas Mavericks 50-50 Raffle, officials said.

The foundation used that money, which averages out to about $2,140 from each game, to help local charities with training advocates for children in the foster care center, assisting children whose mothers are receiving substance abuse treatment, providing supplies for homeless children and more.

The raffle proceeds also helped pay for teaching struggling students to read, testing donor breast milk for critically ill and premature babies in North Texas and building a basketball court at the Boys & Girls Club of Arlington.

“The 50-50 Raffle provides an excellent opportunity to raise critical dollars for the charities we support, bring awareness to community needs and encourage our fans to contribute to worthy causes,” said Floyd Jahner, president and chief operating officer of the Mavs Foundation. “With these new donations, we will be able to expand the number of children, women and families we can serve across North Texas.”

‘We believe it will grow’

The FC Dallas Foundation sold 50-50 raffle tickets during 15 regular-season matches and one playoff match, raising $23,000 — half which went to winners and half to charity.

These funds were used to help buy soccer gear for America Scores Dallas, the 58 Foundation and GOAL-Denton, among other groups. They helped pay for some expenses on a home being built for a veteran with the North Collin County Habitat for Humanity, for scholarship funds at the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber’s Stars on the Rise effort and for breast cancer awareness efforts.

Donations also were made to the Boys & Girls Club and to the FC Dallas Foundation for Special Olympics, field building and the line of duty fund.

“The raffle is very important to the fundraising efforts of the foundation,” said Melissa Reddick, executive director of the FC Dallas Foundation who manages the 50-50 raffle at Toyota Stadium. “It also provides great awareness for the foundation and engagement by the fans.

“The first year did not raise the funds that we were hoping, but [we] realize now that we need to educate our fans more and engage them more. We believe that it will grow every year,” she said. “I’m hoping that we’ll be able to take credit cards at some point but that is up to the Legislature.”

The Houston Texans, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Dynamo have not yet started 50-50 raffle programs.

The Dallas Stars started a raffle last year but didn’t respond to requests about how it performed and how the money was spent. The Houston Rockets didn’t respond to requests about whether they’ve started a raffle.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

Texas sports teams

Foundations and charities representing 10 professional sports teams in Texas are allowed to hold 50-50 raffles. 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

Dallas Stars

National Basketball Association

Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets