Does school have money to buy the car?
LABELLE, FL. -- In an effort to raise $50,000 by selling lottery tickets,
LaBelle's Upthegrove Elementary School may very well be violating Florida's
Gambling Statutes bigtime. The elementary school, named for the late Ed
Upthegrove, past superintendent of schools, has been selling $100 tickets
for a chance to win a 2005 Mustang vehicle. The car is to be sold to the
school at the dealer's cost if enough tickets can be sold to cover the cost,
according to Tom Conner, Hendry Superintendent of Schools. A good deal for
Langford Ford who gets nine months of free advertising as the school
advertises the drawing and Langford Ford's Mustang, while local merchants
including McDonalds and local banks put up banners and display the Mustang
on their property enticing hopeful winners.
Tom Conner says he believed the elementary school was doing everything
appropriately when contacted Friday by the Sunday Morning News. Conner says
Upthegrove Elementary has been selling tickets for about six months and is
doing the drawing on its own. He added that the school board is not
responsible for the automobile contest. When asked what would happen if
enough tickets couldn't be sold to pay for the car, he said that contingency
had come up in planning meetings, and the plan was to give the ticket
holders back their money. When advised by the Sunday Morning News that the
law says that may be illegal, Conner said the school might have enough
funds in its account to pay for the car, but wasn't sure.
Florida Statute 849.0935 lays out the law for non-profit organizations
wanting to raise money by drawings. The law says it is illegal "to condition
the drawing on a minimum number of tickets having been disbursed to
contributors or on a minimum amount of contributions having been received"
or "to fail to award all prizes offered" or "to cancel a drawing." It is a
violation "to condition the acquisition or giveaway of any prize upon the
receipt of voluntary donations or contributions."
The law also provides that anyone selling tickets and the organizer must
disclose the rules concerning the operation and conduct of the drawing in
all advertisements and on the tickets, and disclose where the funds are
coming from to purchase the prizes. The Florida Statutes also say that no
purchase or contribution is necessary to obtain a ticket. Conner said it
would be a disaster to call off the car give-away at this point and he would
have the school board attorney take a look at the situation later this month
when he comes to LaBelle for the next board meeting.
Mr. Gann, principal of Upthegrove Elementary was not available for comment
Friday, as schools were on a four-day week schedule.