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A raffle is a gambling competition in which people obtain numbered tickets, each ticket having the chance of winning a prize. At a set time, the winners are drawn from a container holding a copy of every number. The drawn tickets are checked against a collection of prizes with numbers attached to them, and the holder of the ticket wins the prize.
The raffle is a popular game in numerous countries and is often held to raise funds for a specific charity or event.
A raffle often involves several different possible prizes that can be won, and a ticket will be drawn from the group at random for each of the prizes. In this manner, people were not buying tickets to win a specific prize, but for the possibility of winning any of the prizes, as the prizes do not have specific numbers attached. A ticket is drawn for the initial prize; that ticket is then left out of the container. A second ticket is then drawn for the next prize, and that ticket also is discarded, and so on. This continues until all prizes have been won.
A common practice for increasing revenue from ticket sales is to offer bulk sales of tickets, e.g., $1 per single ticket or $5 for six tickets, although this practice is illegal in some countries. Players tend to spend more money on bulk tickets believing they have a much better chance of winning. Since the tickets cost little money to produce, and the prize expense has been set, the number of tickets sold creates little or no additional cost for the raffle holders.
Tombola is a board game which originates in Southern Italy and which is mostly played in Christmas time. Prizes are often only symbolic. With the Italian massive emigration of the 19th and 20th centuries, the game was exported abroad and it took different forms and names such as Bingo. In the UK, a tombola is a raffle in which the prizes are already assigned to winning tickets before the start (typically all the winning tickets end with the same digit). Players pay for a ticket, which they then draw out from a hat, and can instantly see whether or not they have won a prize. Tombolas are popular at events such as coffee mornings, when it is expected that not all the players will be present at the end of the event. In some other languages such as Bulgarian or Slovak, "Tombola" is a general word meaning raffle.
The process may be employed, where legal, to dispose of a high-value item such as a horse, car or real estate. One example was American-Australian photographer Townsend Duryea's raffling off his yacht "Coquette" in 1858.
In the United Kingdom, raffles occasionally are held to circumvent licensing laws. While only licensed premises are permitted to sell alcoholic beverages, there is no restriction on the offering of alcoholic beverages as prizes in raffles. At some events, attendees can enter a raffle where prizes include alcoholic drink(s). In the UK the term "tombola" is used when the raffle tickets are placed in a barrel and tumbled before the winning tickets are drawn from the barrel. The tombola booth is commonly used as a fund raising event for local fetes.
In Australia, meat raffles are commonplace in pubs and registered clubs. Trays of meat or seafood are raffled to raise money for a cause, often a local sporting club. Similar raffles are held in Minnesota and Rhode Island.