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Raffle machines bring in $17M

COLUMBUS (AP) — Electronic raffle machines operated by fraternal and veterans groups have raised $17 million for Ohio charities and remain in use amid a pending lawsuit over the state’s effort to shut them down.

The legal battle between the Ohio Veterans and Fraternal Charitable Coalition and Attorney General Mike DeWine is scheduled for trial next summer, The Columbus Dispatch reported recently.

The coalition, which has 2.1 million members and families in 1,700 posts and clubs across the state, began operating the video raffle machines in 2011.

The coalition said the machines are charitable electronic bingo games that are legal under state law. Proceeds are split among the lodges and veteran posts and tax-exempt charitable organizations in the state.

DeWine said the games were illegal gambling machines in October 2013 and stopped them. The coalition then hired a former Supreme Court justice who filed a lawsuit to block the shutdown.

A judge approved a temporary restraining order against the state in December 2013, and the games were able to continue.

Dan Tierney, DeWine’s spokesman, said the state successfully argued this past summer for having a gambling expert review the raffle machine software supplied by Capital Group of Columbus and Charitable Management.

Tierney said the review is expected to show what the games are designed to do, which can help determine whether they’re illegal.

“The difficult thing about this case is that these are well-known charities that do good work for veterans and others,” Tierney said.