7 important casino fundraiser steps and pitfalls to understand when planning your next casino fundraiser.
Having been in the casino party and planning business for many years I have heard from customers some very sad stories of what occurred at their casino fundraiser and I would like to pass to you the 7 steps you must follow to ensure you have a successful casino fundraiser and hire the BEST casino party company for your event.
Step 1. The planning committee. This is the most important step in your planning and you must assign a person to each of the specific tasks that must be accomplished for your event, which include the Law and getting the appropriate licenses, finding the location and catering for the event, getting sponsors to help with the costs, getting gifts donated, finding the correct casino company, and who will be handling the money. It is impossible for one person to handle all of the above items. The only successful way is to have one person responsible for each item, leave them alone to perform the task, but having them report their progress every so often to the person assigned in charge for the event. You will need plenty of time to accomplish all the tasks I a good time frame to start is 4-6 months before the event date.
Step 2. The Law and obtaining your fundraiser license and township permission. Always remember that gambling is illegal, and having casino games at your fundraiser is gambling. This is important because a casino fundraiser is not the same as holding a car wash to raise funds. Because gambling is illegal there are state authorities in charge of stopping illegal gambling which means your casino fundraiser will fall under an exception to the gambling laws. Let’s take New Jersey as an example. The state agency ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control)is responsible to find and prevent illegal gambling, unfortunately their own handbook does not say illegal gambling, or exceptions to the gambling laws, it only says gambling, and there has been an occasion where one of their investigators attempted to stop a casino fundraiser claiming it was gambling. The situation was resolved before the event date because of the second point I want you to remember. Even though your casino fundraiser is gambling and gambling is illegal, you fall under an exception to the gambling laws by state statute. In New Jersey the state legislature created a statute to allow casino gambling and created the Casino Control Commission to oversee the activity, they also created a statute to allow casino fundraisers and created the legalized Games of Chance Control Commission to oversee casino fundraisers. The point I want you take from all this would be to make your casino fundraiser legal, you must understand the law and get the proper licenses and township permission for the event. Just because you are a 501(c)3 non profit organization and used to having a car wash to raise funds doesn’t mean you can have a casino fundraiser simply because it sounds like a good idea. So at this point you should understand it is a good idea to call your states Office of the Attorney General to find out the laws in your state to have a casino fundraiser.
Step 3. The Best casino company. The licensing requirements needed for you state may also require the casino company to be licensed. There have been occasions in New Jersey where a non profit organization called a casino party company and neither of the parties knew the laws resulting in the event being stopped and fines. Each state is different and in New Jersey the casino company and all the dealers must have a casino fundraiser license. So the important point here is to first learn the requirement on your own by calling the state authorities, then you start calling the casino companies and ask them what is required to have a casino fundraiser. A good casino party company will ask you if you have your license and be able to email you the forms needed to obtain the license. They should guide you through all aspects to obtaining your license and getting the township permission. If they do not assist you or explain the rules then they may not understand them and that could be a disaster waiting to happen.
Step 4. Who is really doing your event? Understand there are casino party companies who advertise locally and some who do it nationally. In my experience the local companies are the best for you because the national companies may not know the laws for you state. Even worse is the national companies will not be doing your event. What they do is call the local companies, get a quote from them and add hundreds of dollars to the bill just for answering your phone call, and the local company is who will be doing your event and they will have given you a quote that is less than the national company. As you look at each company you will see some that have photographs of movie stars and people having fun in a casino on the front page of their website. Forget all that material designed to attract you because it is not important. When you receive price quotes from the casino party companies you may get 3 or 4 that are in the same general range and 1 or 2 that are much higher than the others. Let’s give an example and say you received quotes for $1000, $1100, $1200 and $2000. It doesn’t make any sense that 3 quotes were in the same range and one quote was much higher and that is because the very high quote is from a national company who will not do your event because they are going to call the local company who gave you the lower quote in the first place, then add the extra money to the bill.
Step 5. The casino tables. There is a general rule to follow which is you want approximately 70 percent of you guests to be able to play. You can modify this rule, but I would not go below 50 percent able to play. The casino company should advise you on this. They should also stay in constant contact with you in the week leading up to the event to revise the tables if needed. Let’s assume your event was 300 guests, but in the last week you realize only 200 will show up. A reputable casino company will suggest you reduce the number of tables. A poor casino company will want you to stay with the original suggestion because they will make more money. Simply stated, the BEST casino party company would rather you have the correct number of tables and not too many or too few, and they should not put their profit above your fundraising needs. Now let’s discuss the casino tables that will be used for your event. This is my opinion as a licensed dealer, but the best casino companies have new equipment which does not have folding metal legs and/or use skirting under the table to hide the metal legs. Ask yourself why a real casino doesn’t use metal folding legs on their tables. A craps or roulette table is very heavy with up to 14 people all leaning and shifting their weight on the table. Maybe that’s the reason you shouldn’t have metal folding legs on the table because you do not want to take the chance the table collapses. I will never deal craps or roulette on a table that has metal folding legs. The point I want you remember here is that you should have the casino party company put in writing that they will be the company doing your event and will not subcontract to another company. You should also require the casino company to provide photographs of the actual tables they will use at the event. It is fine if they can show you the tables on their website, but I would ask myself why a casino company does not have photographs of the tables on the website. Do not accept the company having a photo showing the top of the tables with people having fun because that does not show the legs of the table which I consider the most important part.
Step 6. Cost from the Casino company and suggestions. The casino party company should be making suggestions on the proper casino tables and the number of each table to have for your event. They will follow the general rule of 70 percent of your guests being able to play, but they should also be in constant contact with you leading up to the event and be willing to reduce or add tables if needed. Remember the casino company is there to help you but also want to make money. A great casino company will advise you if needed to reduce the number of tables originally suggested based on the number of guests, allowing them to be a great help to you and still make a profit. The Poor casino companies will want you to stay with the original plan because they will make more money. The point here is that if you have too few tables then your guests can’t play meaning they can’t donate money to the event, and if you have too many tables they will not be used and you are spending more money than you should, and you could run the risk of losing money for the charity because of it. The last point I want you to remember is some casino party companies that do fundraising want a percentage of your profits. Never hire a company that wants a percentage of the profits because that is your money. Look at the casino company as you would a caterer or DJ. They are being paid for their service a flat fee and not a penny more.
Step 7. Who is going to handle the money. There is a cardinal rule in casino fundraiser that you never allow the casino company to touch the money. Keep in mind there could be thousands of dollars out there and you want to remove all temptations and possible accusations. A great casino company will advise you how to set up a “bank” and how only your representatives will touch the money. There are certain aspects of the evening where the casino company pit boss will do things to help encourage additional donations by making chip specials to your guests if they donate more money at each table, but this should only be done one table at a time with one of your representatives standing next to them.