Bill would help charitable gaming advertise

Posted: Monday, March 13, 2006

Nonprofit agencies that raise money through charitable gaming such as lotteries and raffles can walk into any newspaper office and buy space in which to advertise their fundraising activities.

But current state law prevents them from buying the same advertising on broadcast media — radio and television.

Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, who represents portions of the Kenai Peninsula, thinks that’s unfair and possibly unconstitutional and has introduced a bill to amend state statutes to permit radio and television broadcasters to promote charitable raffles and lotteries.

Under current law, broadcasters may promote charitable gaming activities such as fish derbies or classics, like the Nenana Ice Classic, but not other types of games that support charitable efforts. Print media faces no such ban and therefore can benefit from paid advertising of those kinds of activities.

“(The bill) would afford an equal playing field for Alaska’s broadcasters,” Stevens said.

Passage of the bill could mean avoiding a constitutional challenge to the existing statute. The current law, Stevens noted, impedes positive government interests and denies broadcasters equal protection under federal and state constitutions.

“Alaska Broadcasters Association member stations cannot assist deserving not-for-profit organizations in their efforts to raise money to meet their goals,” Stevens said.

Because of the restrictions imposed by the current law, broadcast media may not advertise such worthwhile activities as raffles meant to generate donations for local churches, Scout groups, Boys and Girls Clubs and even events such as the Iditarod, ultimately reducing the ability of those organizations to raise funds.

Cherie Curry, general manager of KSRM Radio Group and an ABA board member, said the ABA and her station support Stevens’ bill and a a companion measure introduced in the Alaska House by Rep. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage.

“It seems like a misguided law,” Curry said of the current ban. “We’re unable to help nonprofit groups to promote their fundraisers. There are worthy efforts and causes that are probably not raising as much as possible by being limited to just print media.”

Several times a year, representatives of nonprofits come by the station inquiring about advertising only to learn of the state’s ban, she said, adding it can be frustrating not being able to help.

Association members are headed to Juneau on March 22 to meet with lawmakers about the issue.

The bills are Senate Bill 282 and House Bill 477.

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