Among the Edison couple’s regular jaunts are concerts sponsored by the Garden State Arts Foundation, which offers free events for seniors and other groups. The Clarks said they’ve gone to these concerts regularly for about 10 years.
“We enjoy it, the music, and it’s easy for my husband, who is handicapped,” said Terese Clark, 64.
On Sept. 13, the Clarks and a group of friends met at the PNC Bank Arts Center to see a performance by The Celtic Tenors.
At every concert, the Clarks said, the Garden State Arts Foundation holds a 50-50 raffle. Concertgoers buy tickets, and the winners get half the pot. The other half benefits the Foundation.
At this show, Jack Clark, 72, bought $5 worth of raffle tickets.
But because of a paperwork mix-up on the part of the Foundation, the couple didn’t receive their winnings for more than six weeks.
What’s the big deal? Legally, 50-50 raffles must be paid in cash.
This raffle had a decent take.
First prize was about $1,400, second prize was about $900 and third prize — the Clarks’ prize — was $586, Terese said.
“He was so happy. He couldn’t believe he won,” she said.
Terese went up on stage to claim her husband’s prize. Instead of cash, she said she was given a piece of paper.
It was a claims receipt, and she was told a check would be mailed to the Clarks’ home address.
“They said, ‘If you do not hear from us in one month, call us and let us know. Remind us to send you the money,’ ” Terese said. “In my experience with 50-50s at my church and my husband’s Knights of Columbus, they always pay cash right away.”
Oct. 13 came and went. The Clarks hadn’t received the check, so they called Cookie Santiago, the Foundation contact listed on the receipt. Terese said she was told they’d receive the check in a few more days, so they waited.
She called again and was told a different story. Terese said Santiago told her the money was wrongly counted at the concert — there was actually $75 less in the pot than originally thought — so the checks were delayed.
The original checks had to be destroyed and new ones were being issued.
“She expected us to get it by Oct. 20, but of course we didn’t get it,” Terese said.
She said she then called the governor’s office. Then she called Bamboozled.
THE CHECK AND THE SNAG
Bamboozled had never heard of a 50-50 raffle that didn’t pay cash, so we gave the Garden State Arts Foundation a call.
Santiago, the contact listed on the Clarks’ receipt, said the check had gone out the day before, Oct. 26.
“We count the money backstage and the auditors review it,” she said. “The checks had to be redone because the amount was different by $75.”
Okay. Fine. But why send checks? Why not pay cash, like all the other 50-50s Bamboozled has witnessed?
“That I can’t explain,” Santiago said. “I’ve been here 22 years and it’s always been that way. We take the money and later send a check.”
That didn’t pass the smell test. We figured there had to be a rule about this because organizations can’t hold such raffles without first applying for a license.
We called the state Division of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission, to ask if an organization that holds a 50-50 raffle has a choice between paying winners by check or cash.
“For any 50-50 drawing, money should be awarded at the time the of the drawing,” said spokesman Jeff Lamm. “A receipt is not acceptable.”
Before we had an opportunity to inform the Foundation about the rule, Bamboozled received a call from Tom Feeney, spokesman for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. The authority, back when it was called the N.J. Highway Authority, created the Garden State Cultural Center Fund — the fundraising arm of the Garden State Arts Foundation — back in 1968.
Feeney said the procedures used by the Foundation to account for the raffle money have enabled it “to keep an accurate account of the money its volunteers collect and to ensure that the proper amounts are paid out to the winners.”
“As a result of this matter, it has come to the authority’s attention that the Foundation’s procedures may not fully comply with state regulations,” Feeney said. “If the authority determines that that’s so, the procedures will be changed.”
We’ll let you know if and when that happens.
In the meantime, the Clarks received their check Oct. 28. Still, Terese is troubled by the incident.
“We revealed a scam in New Jersey,” she said. “Maybe you get someone in their 80s and they forget and what if they don’t send the check? I don’t think that’s fair.”