Minnesota’s top gambling official is wondering if a drawing announced on Barack Obama’s website constitutes an illegal raffle — but neither he, nor the Associated Press, notes that John McCain has done the same thing
In Tuesday’s Star Tribune, the AP reports that Tom Barrett, executive director of the state Gambling Control Board, has asked the Department of Public Safety to look into the legality of an Obama promotion whereby donors of $5 or more between now and July 31 will qualify to be one of 10 people flown to Denver for the Democratic National Convention, put up in a hotel (with a guest) for two nights and have a meet-and-greet with Obama. State law says only nonprofit charities can hold raffles.
But as Democratic blogger Mark Nickolas notes, John McCain has engaged in the same kind of promotion. He cites this announcement sent as an email and part of the McCain campaign blog:
Our last “Ride the Bus” contest was such a success, we’ve decided to launch it again. As a token of my appreciation for your financial support, with any donation you make between today and next Monday at midnight, will qualify you to win a seat aboard the Straight Talk Express. I hope you’ll consider joining me by making a donation right away.
In fact, McCain’s contest sounds even fishier. While the Obama campaign argues that it’s selecting 10 people to bring to Denver based on their personal stories and other factors, McCain’s Ride the Bus deal is billed as a “contest” in which chance plays a bigger role: “Be the lucky supporter to ride with John McCain on the Straight Talk Express.”
Update: Barrett says that there are three factors that determine whether an event is a raffle: consideration (is there a cost to enter), chance (is luck involved) and prize (is there one of value). Alter any one element, and it’s not a raffle and is within the law. Late Tuesday, Obama’s campaign changed its promotion so that no donation is required. “We’re not a political agency,” Barrett said, “We’re happy they saw the light.”
McCain’s promo, by contrast, is “very clearly marked” as “no purchase necessary,” says Barrett, so therefore it is legal. But how clear is it? A visitor to the promo page on the McCain blog (which shows the text of an email the campaign sent out) would have to click to another page — Contribute — and then follow a third link to read the “Official Rules and Restrictions,” which state you don’t have to donate to get a chance to “Ride the Bus.”
Barrett’s response: “As long as there is a provision to allow for free entry (no purchase necessary) this would not be considered a raffle/lottery.”