Church leaders are expressing strong disapproval and admonishment of their colleagues who host raffles to raise funds, arguing that it is a subtle form of gambling, and instead have suggested food sales, offerings, and concerts as better alternatives.
A check made with the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) by the Jamaica Observer revealed that churches have been seeking approval to stage raffles.
According to Section 47 of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act, all unauthorised lotteries are unlawful. Further, Section 49 of the Act states that the Commission, in accordance with Part II of the Act, may grant a licence to any person to promote a lottery, and any such lottery which is promoted in accordance with the terms and conditions of the licence shall not be unlawful.
Section 51 allows religious organisations, among others, to organise a lottery for the promotion of the welfare of the community, with the prior approval of the Minister of Finance and the Public Service, with the payment of a bond equivalent to 15 per cent of the gross receipts to the accountant general.
Archbishop Kenneth Richards of Kingston told Jamaica Observer, “We don’t promote it in the Catholic Church, it’s just in solidarity in what was established by the Jamaica Council of Churches, I think back in the 80s, 90s, we abandoned having raffles in our Church.”
He told the news source that while there is a negative connotation associated with the game of chance, churches host raffles for a valuable cause.
“For the Church, it would be a different context if they are going to do a raffle. In the Church, it’s usually a fundraising venture so it falls in a different context. We are at a common place now in society where those persons might squander what is meant for survival and the family to bet on a game of chance and then lose what should take care of the family,” Archbishop Richards said.
But Reverend Ronald Grey, district superintendent for the Jamaica East District of Nazarene Churches, said he is “totally against it”. The Church, he stressed, should not be engaged in such “a sinful act”.
President of the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Pastor Everett Brown said hosting raffles goes against the ethics of the church.
“Whether or not it is legal does not mean it is ethical, so we still do not participate in it. We believe in gifts, offerings, and persons giving their free-will offerings and contributions to carry on the church’s mission — but we do not believe people should gamble in order to raise funds for the church,” he said.
Anglican Archbishop Howard Gregory of the West Indies, and Bishop of Jamaica and The Cayman Islands, said he would not want to see the church heading in that direction, and encouraged Christians to promote other creative ways of fundraising.
“Though I know there is a difference among some religious organisations, there are lots of things the church does to raise funds, such as cake sales and concerts, so people are actually getting something for their money — not somebody losing so that I can win,” he pointed out.
Dr Elaine McCarthy, chair of the Jamaica Pentecostal Union (Apostolic), agreed. “Some churches might do things like that [raffles] but it’s not as if the union would go in and intervene. We try not to go that route if we are organising things …we find other means of raising funds — have dinners or luncheons and sales of other things people would want to purchase,” said McCarthy.