Organizing a charity drive is an American tradition unlike any other. When members of the community gather together to contribute what they can to a worthy cause, everybody wins. These charity events can cover an incredibly wide range of causes too, including the local parent / teacher association, social clubs like the Elks and Rotary, homeless shelters, the Humane Society, church groups, Little League baseball and other youth sports – you name it.

And while you’ve probably purchased a pastry or three at a school bake sale, or bid on a cool collector’s item during a silent auction, one of the most popular ways to organize a charity drive these days is by hosting a casino and/or poker party.

Just think about it. A few dozen patrons strolling through a conference center or ballroom, hitting the roulette wheel, rolling dice at the craps table, or even competing in a No Limit Texas Hold’em tournament. All the while, they’re “betting” casino chips, winning and losing just like they would in a Las Vegas casino.

Check out this classic episode of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” to get an idea of what charity gambling nights are all about. In the show, Will tags along with the Banks family for their country club’s annual casino night, and the usual hijinks ensue.

When the night’s over, a few lucky guests will leave with special gifts and prizes, but it’s the charity of choice that becomes the real winner. Between ticket sales, food and beverages, and raffles, auctions, and other festivities, casino and poker charity drives can easily net $10,000 or more over the course of a single evening.

And in the case of the more high-profile professional charity gambling events, the contributions can reach loftier levels.  Just ask Matt Stout, a professional poker player based in Las Vegas who launched the Charity Series of Poker (CSOP) in 2014.

The CSOP consists of small buy-in poker tournaments held in Sin City and other stops along the American circuit. Players pony up a few hundred bucks to get in the game, and from there, half of the buy-in is diverted to certain charities – such as the Three Square food bank in Las Vegas. The other half heads to the prize pool, giving players a shot to compete for cash of their own.

Here’s how Stout described his gamble on the CSOP during an interview with PokerNews four years ago:

“The reason I started this is because there are so people out there who just need a little push and they’ll bend over backwards for charity.

We’d love to see everyone show up, come out, have fun, have a few drinks, raise money for the food bank. Especially because every player, with rebuys, it’s probably going to be almost 1,000 meals for every player that shows up and plays.

And those players will still have an opportunity to win a pretty sizable amount of money. It’s going to be a big prize pool and we’re still paying out half the money under a normal payout structure.”


By 2017, Stout’s and his CSOP team had 90 players – including poker pros and Hollywood celebrities alongside local donors looking to rub elbows with the stars – gathered at the MGM Grand for a tournament that raised $28,000. You can read more about that successful event here.

And while the actual poker is all fun and games – with players gladly going all in and rebuying to add more funds to the charity’s final haul – Stout made sure to tell PokerNews that running a charity poker night is serious business:

“It’s going to be a $300 buy-in with $100 rebuys and add-ons for the first hour. Half the prize pool goes to payouts, half the prize pool goes to Three Square food bank.

So, the CSOP is not handling any funds for the first event, they’re just going to cut a check from Planet Hollywood directly to Three Square. But in the future the CSOP is going to be a 501(c)(3), and it’s going to be an officially IRS-recognized charity, so we’ll be able to have our own bank accounts, handle funds, and distribute funds to different charities.

I’m pretty much willing to keep our books open to anyone on the board of directors and open to the public if anyone ever has any questions.”


Now, Stout obviously benefited from his connections within the worlds of professional poker and casino operation. Having the folks at MGM in your rolodex certainly provides an advantage, but casino and poker charity drives are becoming big business across the board.

Running a quick Google search reveals a long list of companies that specialize in organizing and hosting these charity gambling parties. This is an emerging industry, one with plenty of room for new competitors, so why not take the plunge and launch your own startup?

If you’re interested in starting a charity casino and poker party business, the following guide should get you off on the right foot. You’ll learn about the do’s and don’ts associated with charitable gambling, complete with advice from Michael Magee, the president of Casino Party Aces out of Raleigh, North Carolina.

As one of the most popular businesses of its kind on the East Coast, Casino Party Aces  has been hosting casino nights successfully for the last few years. And over that time, Magee has learned plenty about running things the right way.

So get ready for a full tutorial on setting up your own charitable casino and poker party business, straight from the horse’s mouth.

Logistics Are Everything

The first to think about when organizing your first casino or poker night is logistics. Without a sufficient number of tables, chips, gaming equipment, and other essentials on hand, your party will be a bust before the donations can really get flowing. You’ll want to build an inventory fully stocked with dozens of foldable gaming tables, preferably those lined with green felt and ringed by comfy arm rests.

Tables are the foundation of your company’s inventory, because players simply can’t gamble if they don’t have somewhere to sit or stand.

Here’s what Magee has to say about the importance of bringing enough tables to keep everyone in the game:

“Organizations tend to underestimate the number of tables.

A good rule of thumb is to have enough tables so that half the guests can play at any one time.

If you have only enough tables for 25 percent of the guests, they’re not likely to rotate through.”

You have two main routes to take when it comes to sourcing tables. First, you can go for the gusto by ordering genuine casino tables straight from the manufacturer. This will be quite expensive, however, as legitimate roulette, craps, blackjack, and poker tables are all built to meet different specifications. And with a need for all four of those games to complete your casino theme, ordering multiples of each can quickly break the bank.

A better option is to order standard foldable tables on the cheap, then outfit those with custom-made casino game layouts. You can sample the selection found at Casino Supply here , and as you’ll see, companies like this sell everything from the felt to chip trays, cards and dice, and everything else you’ll need to turn an ordinary table into a trip to The Strip.

Just be sure to follow Magee’s advice and order an abundance of equipment. Unless you’re opting to cap attendance – never a good idea when a charity drive is concerned – predicting how many players will show up can be a crapshoot. Always err on the side of caution and bring more tables and gambling equipment than you think you’ll need.

Tables are just the foundation though, so pay close attention to your inventory stock of cards, chips, dice, roulette balls, dealer buttons, and all of the other casino game trappings. You’ll want to have backups for your backups, as players can easily bend a card or lose a die. Without contingencies in place for a situation like that, your casino party night can come crashing down in a hurry.

Remember one thing – as a player casually strolling through a genuine casino, it can be quite easy to gloss over just how much planning and organization is required to run these games. And speaking of running the games, you’ll need a trained staff of dealers to help handle everything on the ground level.

Don’t Skimp on the Dealers

One of the easiest ways to ruin your charity casino night is neglecting to hire competent dealers. You might think a few pals or hired hands can learn the ropes of roulette without much trouble. After all, the gig involves nothing more than spinning a wheel and paying out winners, right? Nope.

Roulette dealers – and their counterparts at the blackjack, craps, and poker tables for that matter – are highly trained professionals who must perform a number of difficult duties. They’re responsible for monitoring the bets, dispensing accurate payouts, and making sure the game flows smoothly and efficiently. And while that may sound easy enough to the layman, just pull up a list of the dozens of roulette bets on the table – and their various payout odds – to see what dealers have going on upstairs.

Magee makes sure to provide his own staff of trained dealers to remove any hiccups from the equation. You should do the same, and fortunately, that can be done quite easily in the internet age.  Just post an ad to Craigslist and similar online forums seeking licensed casino dealers. Most locales have a tribal casino running on reservation land somewhere nearby, so the supply of dealers nationwide is much larger than you might imagine.

When posting your ad, ask for a year or two of documentable experience, and maybe even an audition of sorts. Within no time at all, you’ll have a dozen dealers signed up to work “on call,” putting them just a phone call away from working your event.

Follow the Money

Charity casino and poker businesses are a bit of an oxymoron when you really think about it. The primary goal should be generating charitable donations for the cause of choice, but no business can operate effectively without turning a profit. It’s your job to balance these two priorities, and if you’re not careful, that job can turn into a headache in a hurry.

Coming up with a system that satisfies both demands – the philanthropic goals and your own profit margins – is a matter of creativity. Charity casino night businesses can be presented in a number of ways, and if managed correctly, they’ll produce enough funds to keep the charity and your accountant happy. The most common system involves selling tickets to individual guests, while sourcing sponsorships from local businesses.

Let’s say the high school’s PTA hires you to run a casino night for parents, teachers, and other members of the community. Their goal is to raise $10,000 for the school, and with the cafeteria empty for the evening, they can seat 100 guests.

In this admittedly simplified example, you could opt to charge $100 per entry and meet your charitable objectives right off the bat. But how do you cover your own expenses, including the cost of equipment, hiring dealers, and providing refreshments?

That can be done in a number of ways, but the most likely candidate is signing up local businesses to sponsor the event. For a flat fee, these businesses can plaster their logo or brand on chips, table felt, balloons, T-shirts, and anywhere else with available space. With a sufficient number of sponsors on board, you’ll easily bring in the few thousand extra dollars needed to pay your own way – and hopefully, produce a tidy profit.

In many cases, however, the charity you’ll be serving isn’t looking to meet a preset monetary goal. And that makes sense, as they can earn much more than the $10,000 from the example above – if you help them play their cards right that is. By reversing the scenario from earlier, you’d sell tickets and use those proceeds to pay for your company’s expenses. After that, attendees are invited – encouraged is more like it – to gamble to their heart is content.

They’ll be paying cash for chips to play with, but if they manage to beat the odds and collect a payout, that will come in the form of raffle tickets or other prizes. Thus, whether players win or lose at the tables, every dollar they wager heads straight to your client charity.

While the gambling is going on, you can also spice things up by holding an auction in which your sponsors provide cool prizes. The local hardware store might put up a wrench set, while the best restaurant in town could provide a complimentary dinner coupon. Once you have these prizes established, attendees simply bid until somebody blinks.

Finally, be sure to have a bar running throughout the evening. A bit of the bubbly can help loosen guests up and get them to gamble, but you’ll also print money for the charity by selling beer and cocktail at markup.

In the end, how you setup the financial structure of your casino night is matter of personal choice, and there’s more than enough options out there to experiment with. But here’s how Magee likes to approach the accounting when he hosts an event through Casino Party Aces:

“Expecting people to pay at the door is a recipe for disaster.

If you don’t sell out, call the casino night party operator and the caterer and reduce the scope of what you ordered

“Tickets need to be relatively expensive, $50 to $100 per head, though it depends on your demographics.

And don’t forget, you can pay for a casino night almost exclusively with table sponsorships.” (Quote)


The Long Arm of the Law

On a final note, you should take every possible precaution when it comes to complying with local gambling laws.

Every state has different laws on the books regarding charitable gaming events, and it’s your responsibility to know how your jurisdiction views the industry.

In states like Utah and Hawaii, hosting any version of a casino or poker charity event is expressly forbidden. California allowed charity bingo nights for decades, but only recently legalized full-scale casino parties. Head to Massachusetts, and the only games available are bingo and raffle games – no roulette or blackjack allowed.

Wherever you happen to be though, Magee advises you to keep yourself fully informed on the local statutes that will govern how your business operates:

“Check your jurisdiction and make sure it’s legal.

Each state and even some municipalities have their own laws about how casino night fundraisers can be done, if at all. Usually, the local casino night provider will know the ins and outs.

It’s important to work with somebody familiar with that jurisdiction.”

The best way to keep yourself on the right side of the law is to check with your state’s gaming regulator. Just search for your state plus the terms “gaming board” or “gaming commission” and you’ll find your way there without much hassle. These regulators are required to post all available laws and statutes, and you’ll be able to pull up the relevant charitable gaming codes. And when in doubt, don’t hesitate to contact somebody at the agency and ask for assistance.

Running a casino and poker charity party business can be great fun, and profitable to boot, but it’s also a major responsibility. It’s up to you to ensure that the charity makes full use of its resources, and if the cops get called because you forgot to comply with the latest codes, nobody wins.


If you enjoy gambling and have a firm grasp on how the industry works, launching your own casino and poker charity party company can be a great way to mix business with pleasure. Just be sure to stick with the four lessons above, and your new enterprise will be off and running.

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