Understanding the policies and procedures associated with managing a student organization is an important part of properly managing your organization. Familiarize yourself with the information below so you can guide your organization properly.


What is gambling?  

Gambling, with only a few exceptions, is illegal in Missouri. Those exceptions are restricted and highly regulated. Gambling includes, but is not limited to, “promotions that award prizes (and) may be called contests, sweepstakes, lotteries, raffles, drawings or games.” 

Three elements make up an illegal promotion in Missouri: 

  1. Prize is any benefit, cash, or property awarded to a winner.
  2. Chance means the winner is chosen by “luck” with little or no skill or ability involved.
  3. Consideration is the exchange of something of value for the opportunity to participate in the game.

If these three elements are present, the event/promotion is considered gambling and is illegal in Missouri. 

Gambling FAQ

No, but you do have to follow the rules outlined as follows. 

Players must not be required to pay a fee of any kind to play the game or to receive a prize. This includes, but is not limited to general entry fees, cover charges, reservation fees, dues, mandatory donations, or registration fees. Suggested donations are okay as long as people can play without donating. Asking for donations for a raffle does not constitute a no-purchase necessary game or game of skill. 

If a fee is required to play the game, then no prize of any value may be awarded to any player. This includes but is not limited to ribbons, certificates, trophies, tokens, tickets, coupons, points, food, travel, vacation expenses or money. You may give the winner a round of applause or a pat on the back. 

Games of skill include trivia, athletic ability, musical talent, or other defined skill activities.  

“No-purchase-necessary"" games are ones in which individuals can obtain free tickets without a purchase, i.e. the McDonalds Monopoly game pieces can be obtained by visiting the McDonalds website or mailing their headquarters at no cost. 

Yes, always illegal. 

Missouri Law defines a lottery as “an unlawful gambling scheme in which, for a consideration (usually money), the participants are given an opportunity to win something of value (a prize), the award of which is determined by chance.” 

The only legal lottery game hosted in Missouri is the Missouri State Lottery. 

Sometimes – almost always illegal for student organizations. 

One popular money-making effort violating Missouri's gambling law is a raffle or sweepstakes that requires participants to buy a ticket or pay an entry fee for the chance to win a prize. Raffles and sweepstakes include, but are not limited to, 50/50 raffles and promotions where a ticket is purchased for a chance to win a tangible prize (vacation, car, tech gadgets, etc.). 

Raffles/sweepstakes sponsored solely by student organizations are illegal. 

Missouri state law does allow “raffles and sweepstakes to be sponsored by groups recognized under federal law as charitable or religious.” For a student organization to host a raffle or sweepstakes, event/promotion must be co-sponsored and co-planned by a recognized charitable or religious organization (often with 501 (c) tax-exempt status). 

Please note: Student organizations that classify themselves as religious when registering with the University are not considered charitable or religious organizations as defined by federal law. No student organizations are considered charitable or religious organizations on their own. Student organizations affiliated with a national/international organization may be able to use the tax exempt status of the parent organization. Please contact your national organization for further clarification. 


For a student organization to host a bingo game, you may not charge money, and you may not give away any prize(s). You may do one or the other, but not both, i.e. charge money but there are no prizes involved or you may host the game for free and give away prizes. 

If a student organization would like to host a bingo game as a fundraiser (in which you would charge money and give away prizes), you would first need to obtain a bingo license through the state. Under provisions of the bingo law (Chapter 313, RSMo), a bingo game may be operated by a nonprofit organization (such as a charitable organization or religious, service, or veterans group) or a fraternal organization that has maintained a membership of at least 20 for five years prior to applying for a bingo license through the state. 

Host a game of skill: 

An organization on campus wants to hold a poker or video game tournament. In order for the organization to legally plan and participate in this activity, the organization may ask for a voluntary donation, but may not require money to play. All advertising and word of mouth publicity must indicate that a donation is strictly optional. If this is done, there can be a prize given to the winner. If that is not desirable, the organization may require an entry fee to play as long as no prize (monetary or otherwise) is given to the winner or to any participant. 

Host a raffle or sweepstakes: 

An organization on campus wants to hold a raffle to earn money for a non-profit religious group in town. The only way for this to be legal would be for the religious group to hold the raffle with the student organization aiding in the planning and promotion. The religious group must be recognized under the law as a non-profit religious organization in the State of Missouri. 

Host bingo: 

An organization on campus wants to have a bingo night. They can do so as long as they do not charge money to play and give away any prizes. If they want to be able to do both of those things, the legal way to do this would be to get a bingo license. 

Film Screening and Public Performances 

The Federal Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code, Public Law 94-553, 90 stat. 2541) governs how copyrighted materials, such as movies, may be used. Federal law requires that viewing rights must be obtained prior to showing movies or films in public spaces. If you rent, buy, or borrow a video or DVD recording, it is usually intended for “home use” only. Students, staff, faculty members and student organizations are required to obtain copyright permission from a film distribution company in order to show movies or films in public spaces, including residence hall lounges and spaces reserved on campus. Failure to do so may result in legal action. 

For more information, please visit the Motion Picture Association of America website on Public Performances.

Film Screening and Public Performances FAQ

  • Events open to the public (including students, faculty, staff and, community members who are not general members of the student organization). If any person attending the event is not listed on the student organization's member roster, then copyright permission must be obtained. 
  • Any event that is planned and advertised (on the internet, through flyers or handbills, or through email to non-organization members). 

Please note: This legal requirement applies regardless of whether an admission fee is charged. 

Obtain a license from a Motion Picture Distributor. Costs typically range from $200-$1,000. Licensing fees are determined by such factors as the number of times a particular movie is going to be shown, how large the audience will be, etc. 
  • Swank Motion Pictures, Inc. / swank.com / (800) 876.5577 
  • Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC) / mplc.org / (800) 462-8855 

  1. Home viewing - A student may show lawfully obtained (rented or purchased) movies to family members or a small group of friends in his/her own residence hall room or off-campus apartment/house 
  2. Educational use - You must meet the following two criteria: 
    1. Viewing must not be open to the general public 
    2. The education component is significant. It must be part of a class, workshop, or series and there should be a theme to the event or a presentation, speaker, or forum that accompanies the viewing. 

Please note: The event does not need to be University-sponsored or academic credit-bearing. The person giving the academic presentation can be a student, professor, outside speaker or other. The important criterion is not the presenter, but rather the quality of content of the presentation and the connection to educational advancement. 

Student Organizations: 

  1. Without a license - the student organization's general membership may be contacted and invited to watch the movie or movie series. However, public advertisements (including online) for the event are not permitted. Members of the organization may be sent a private invitation or emailed.
  2. With a license - members of the organization as well as the campus community may be invited to attend the movie or movie series. The film or series may be advertised through email, personal invitation, social media, print advertising, University public posting options, and other creative methods.

Residence Halls: 

A resident hall may not have a "movie night" without proper licensing. If a group of students get together on a spontaneous basis, such as on a Tuesday evening everyone on a particular floor decides to watch a movie and order pizza, no copyright permission is needed. However, if a residence hall programming board decides to host a regular "movie night" every Thursday and invite all residents in the building, copyright permission is needed. 


Faculty members may show a film for educational purposes if: 

  1. It is during face-to-face teaching activities
  2. It is shown in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction. The audience is limited, so only persons enrolled in or teaching the class (and necessary staff) may attend. In addition, there should be an educational component such as a discussion or panel after the film.
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