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Idaho lottery officials launch investigation into illegal raffle for horses

According to the Idaho Lottery, "only charitable/non-profit organizations can conduct bingo and raffles. All other gaming activities such as poker runs, Calcutta's and casino nights are strictly prohibited."

Chester, Idaho – The Idaho Lottery Enforcement Division is investigating an Idaho equestrian company’s illegal raffles according to an official who spoke to Equestrian Media Group.

The discovery came after Equestrian Media Group received tips in recent days that Weber Family Quarter Horses was holding illegal raffles, prompting our inquiries with Idaho Lottery officials for more info who ultimately confirmed they were investigating.

According to the Idaho Lottery, “only charitable/non-profit organizations can conduct bingo and raffles. All other gaming activities such as poker runs, Calcutta’s and casino nights are strictly prohibited.”

The law is similar across the nation in most states, with for-profits being prohibited from conducting raffles. Even then non-profits must typically meet certain requirements and obtain the necessary permits with the respective State agencies, often including State Department of Justices. Lottery & sweepstakes regulations are also enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.

According to multiple agencies, such laws are intended to protect consumers by preventing the potential for deceptive and unfair business practices involving such raffles which can be plagued with questions of accountability.

The company’s owner, Afton Weber, spoke to Equestrian Media Group last week. When asked about the current raffle for a horse represented as an “AQHA Stud Colt”, Weber generally denied having any awareness that such a raffle was illegal. Equestrian Media Group pointed Weber to resources pointed out by the Idaho Lottery officials regarding the laws, specifically an online FAQ.

“Yeah, so we always list the babies beforehand, but he didn’t sell. Then people asked for people for me to do the raffle because people like him, so that’s why we did the raffle,” said Weber.

She also confirmed they had held raffles in the past. Facebook posts from 2022 also confirmed they held raffles

Weber confirmed that the company was not a charitable organization, but was an unregistered for-profit business. She was also insistent she would be contacting Idaho Lottery officials right away when asked if they intended to continue the raffle.

Despite that claim, according to Charitable Gaming Coordinator Tina Miller with the Idaho Lottery, Weber had yet to reach out. The company has continued to accept new entries and advertise the raffle as recently as yesterday, days after speaking with Equestrian Media Group and saying they would speak to the Idaho Lottery about it.

“I can tell you they do not hold a license,” said Miller, who went on to explain that only certain charitable organizations are able to obtain a license for a raffle.

Miller confirmed they were actively investigating the promoted raffle and would soon be making attempts to reach the company themselves.

While a raffle would clearly be illegal, Miller went on to explain that “merchant drawings” were legal for for-profit businesses, explaining the key differences. “Merchant drawings by for-profit businesses are legal, but there are steps they have to do to make them legal,” Miller said.

“Gaming in the State of Idaho is defined by three things; payment or consideration, a chance, and a prize that is given away. So they either have to remove the payment, so basically, anyone entering the drawing would get a free ticket to get into that drawing or remove,”

Miller confirmed that such merchant drawings are used to support other standard sales activities or business promotions, like offering prize drawings for people liking/subscribing to a social media page, or signing up to a company’s email list, are legal.

“What I’m seeing is a raffle, and because they are a for-profit business they are not allowed to hold a raffle, it’s illegal for them. If they continue in the aspect that they are they could face fines,” said Miller.

According to Miller, the company would need to take action to change the raffle entry requirements to allow entry without payment and would need to offer refunds to those who have already paid.

Another investigator with the Idaho Lottery told Equestrian Media Group last week they were already taking steps to document the advertisements and claims by the company. Equestrian Media Group has previously reported on illegal raffles after receiving tips from readers expressing concerns about consumer protection, but often the advertisements on social media are promptly removed.

Miller also explained that both merchant drawings and raffles require the company or charitable organization to keep detailed records in the event of an audit and investigation. Such record requirements are outlined in Idaho law and must be kept for at least 5 years.

Ticket sales are also prohibited by law from being deposited into personal bank accounts, which would likely include personal banking app accounts like Venmo.

Equestrian Media Group also spoke with officials with the Washington Gaming Commission, as our initial tip appeared to indicate that the raffle was soliciting consumers in that State. An official said that they would be concerned about any Washington consumers getting wrapped up with an illegal raffle, but any action they took would be to support Idaho officials who’d take the lead in any investigation considering the company was located in Chester, Idaho.

Civil fines for violations can range up to $10,000 per violation explained Miller, going on to say that each individual advertisement for a single raffle could be considered a violation. The potential fines for Weber and her company could be extensive.

She also confirmed that an illegal raffle could result in criminal charges. “They can be charged under the gambling laws which are criminal,” said Miller.

Miller said that anyone with questions or concerns regarding this or any other raffles being held or promoted in Idaho to contact the Idaho Lottery Enforcement Division at (208) 334-2277. She also encouraged members of the public or those wanting to learn more about the common requirements to visit:

If any consumers who have entered this raffle are not refunded upon request they can contact Idaho Lottery, FTC, BBB, or the Office of the State Attorney General or department of Consumer Affairs of the consumer’s state.

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