The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) recently announced that licensed charity gaming events generated about $4.9 million in net income for charities in 2022, per the revenue statement released at the end of April 2023.
These MGCB-sponsored charity events – cleverly dubbed Millionaire Parties by the state gambling watchdog – have made a strong recovery after facing stiff setbacks due to the recent coronavirus pandemic in the last two years.
In 2022, the Great Lakes State saw 1,394 such fundraisers, with chip sales amounting to nearly $67.9 million. This figure is just shy of the $72.4 million in chip sales recorded in 2019. The number of charity-licensed gaming events saw an equally remarkable 137% uptick from 2021 to last year.
In an accompanying statement, Executive Director of the MGCB, Henry Williams, encouraged charitable organizations in Michigan to consider hosting ‘Millionaire Parties’ as a fundraising strategy to support their philanthropic endeavors.
The MGCB has put out a comprehensive guide on its website regarding eligibility for charitable organizations. Only legitimate fraternal, senior citizens, service, educational, religious, or veterans’ organizations that serve their members on a non-profit basis are eligible for a Millionaire Party program license. In addition to that, such organizations must either be a non-profit exempted from tax obligations under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS or have been in existence for a minimum of five years.
The Nitty-Gritty of MGCB-Licensed ‘Millionaire Parties’
‘Millionaire Parties’ have long been one of the most viable ways for charities in Michigan to raise funds and bring together like-minded people through gambling events.
According to MGCB’s official website, such events largely involve participants wagering on games of chance, typically associated with commercial casinos – think poker, blackjack, baccarat, or bingo games. Poker is especially popular at Millionaire Party gaming events, which doesn’t come as a surprise because the game is enjoyed wildly at both brick-and-mortar and online casinos.
Participating players use imitation or ‘fake’ chips and money to differentiate charity gaming from casino gambling.
All charitable gambling events and games offered at Millionaire Parties are subject to strict oversight by the MGCB. These gaming charity events were initially authorized by Michigan’s Bingo Act of 1972.
In December last year, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer approved a bill that amended the Bingo Act. The amendment essentially changed the source of funding for the Millionaire Party program, the recently-established Internet Gaming Fund from the State Lottery Fund.
The ‘Millionaire Party’ section of the MGCB website provides thorough information on the kinds of eligible organizations, most notably senior citizens, veterans, religious, fraternal, educational, and service non-profits. They are typically 501(c) charitable organizations that are exempt from paying taxes under the Internal Revenue Code’s section of the same name.
Each eligible organization may apply for and receive a maximum of four licenses for the Millionaire Party program in every calendar year. Each Millionaire Party license carries a daily license fee of $50 and can be authorized by the MGCB for up to 4 days of charity gambling events in a row.
As stipulated by the licensing agreement, charities requesting to host Millionaire Parties have two options to remit license payments to the MGCB. They can either send a check directly to the Michigan Gaming Control Board’s offices or process the payment electronically through the MGCB’s portal for the Millionaire Party program.
In addition to paying the license fee, the organizing charity must ensure at least a couple of bona fide members of the organization are present at the Millionaire Party event. The qualifying organizations may partner with an MGCB-authorized Millionaire Party supplier to provide the dealers to carry out the gaming and equipment for the charity gambling event.
The organization can host the charity gaming event at its own location or lease a venue. Of course, the charity is tasked with informing participants of the dangers of problem gambling. This goes in line with a responsible gambling ad that MGCB launched recently.
To conduct a ‘Millionaire Party,’ the organizers must include at least two legitimate members of the charity, and they have to be present on the gaming floor. The charity may hire an authorized supplier to provide equipment and dealers to help conduct the event, and it may host the event at its own or a leased location.
To conduct a licensed gaming event, the organization must appoint a chairperson who will be responsible for overseeing the event. All participants, including players and workers, must be at least 18 years of age.
Dealers can either be legitimate members of the organization or hired from a licensed supplier. However, the MGCB has the authority to reject a ‘Millionaire Party’ application if the proposed organization’s dealer has a criminal record that includes a felony, a gambling offense, criminal fraud, forgery, theft, or filing a false report with a governmental agency.
The number of chips that can be sold in a day is restricted to $20,000 per event. However, if the charitable organization uses its own dealers, equipment, and venue, it may determine its chip sale limit by apportioning $ 80,000 worth of chips across the length of the event.
The charity is responsible for managing the event, as well as keeping both game and financial records, which must be forwarded to the Michigan Gambling Control Board by the tenth day of the month following the gambling event’s last date.
Michigan Charities Reaping Big from Millionaire Parties
In 2022, Michigan’s charitable organizations bounced back from pandemic-related issues they faced in 2020 and 2021, raking in $4.9 million in net profit from charitable poker events licensed by the MGCB.
These organizations can earn up to 50% of the profits from the games of chance, and the more chips sold during the event, the more profit the organization makes.
According to the MGCB, over 2,300 licenses were issued to charitable organizations to host fundraising gaming events under the ‘Millionaire Party’ program. The most popular game at most of these gaming events is Texas Hold ‘Em poker.