Gov. Evers vetoes paddlewheel raffle bill, affecting charity meat raffles

Published: Mar. 6, 2020 at 5:41 PM CST
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In Wisconsin there is a long-standing tradition of using meat raffles to raise money for charity, but you might not see as many of those events in the future after one of Gov. Tony Evers’ latest vetoes.

Meat, cheese and beer are Wisconsin staples, so it’s no surprise that meat raffle fundraisers are popular.

“It’s kind of a very Wisconsin sort of a thing,” said state Sen. Andre Jacque (R – De Pere).

“It’s an awesome way to have a great afternoon with a bunch of customers and a bunch of supporters with the nonprofits and still make a good amount of money for those nonprofits and organizations,” said Mark Mader, general manager at Calmes Pub in Kaukauna.

But there’s one fact that may surprise people.

“I’ve seen the paddlewheel raffles at church picnics and the like where I just haven’t had the heart to tell people that they’re technically illegal,” said Jacque.

Jacque says paddlewheel raffles, which are often used for meat raffle events, are illegal even under a Class B raffle license which many non-profits use.

He says recently the Department of Justice has started enforcing the rule, sending letters to various charities warning they could be prosecuted for up to a Class I felony of fostering illegal gambling -- punishable by up to a $10,000 fine.

“When people find out they’re stunned,” said Jacque. “And I think especially stunned the Department of Justice doesn’t have higher priorities right now than to crack down on our charitable groups that hold meat raffles.”

In response, Jacque co-wrote a bill to include paddlewheel raffles under Class B raffle licenses. It received unanimous support, but Gov. Evers vetoed it.

“So this is something where, you know, Wisconsin is unfortunately discouraging something that we actually advertise through our tourism sites, our community calendars and everything else," said Jacque. "So it’s disappointing.”

Evers released a statement saying in part: “I am vetoing this bill because I object to the bill’s expansion of what constitutes a raffle. Such an expansion could threaten the exclusive rights of Tribal Nations to conduct Class III gaming in Wisconsin.”

But Jacque doesn’t understand where that rationale is coming from.

"In talking to tribal representatives, tribal leaders, there was no opposition because this doesn’t compete with casino gambling," said Jacque.

Mader understands wanting to ensure gaming rights aren’t infringed on but thinks there are ways to distinguish legitimate charities.

"All the charities we work with have all their tax IDs and everything, so that’s got to be partially on the bar to make sure they’re following up with that properly," said Mader.

Jaque says there's a possibility of a veto override vote, but otherwise he'll bring the bill up again next session in hopes non-profits can continue their traditional fundraisers.

“It’s unfortunate, because it’s having a chilling effect on those individuals and groups that do so much good for our community,” said Jacque.

“It would be very unfortunate if we can’t do something like this to raise money for our community,” said Mader.

WBAY did reach out to Oneida Nation’s director of public relations, but they were unable to comment by Friday's deadline.

To view the vetoed bill