Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGLO 1974 No. 95 - November 19, 1974
AGO Opinion Header Image
Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

GAMBLING ‑- LOTTERIES ‑- LEGAL STATUS OF CERTAIN CONTEST ‑- SCATTERBOARDS

Scatterboards, as described in this opinion, constitute an illegal lottery and the conduct of gambling under chapter 9.46 RCW.

                                                                   - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                               November 19, 1974

Honorable Robert E. Schillberg
Prosecuting Attorney
Snohomish County Court House
Everett, Washington 98201                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1974 No. 95

Dear Sir:
 
            By recent letter you have asked for an opinion of this office regarding the legal status under our state gambling laws of what you have referred to as "scatterboards."  You have described the form and use of these boards as follows:
 
            "1. Some individual or organization prepares targets which contain small circles on their surface.
 
            "2. Individuals subscribe for the circles by paying a fee and signing their name on the target inside the circle.
 
            "3. When all the circles have been subscribed, some individual shoots at the target with a shotgun.
 
            "4. A prize is awarded to the person whose name appears in the circle with the largest number of pellet holes.
 
            "5. The prize awarded the winner is of less value than the total amount of money received for all the circles in the target, thus giving a profit to the sponsoring individual or organization."
 
            You have then asked whether these devices, as thus described and used, constitute illegal lotteries or gambling activities under chapter 9.46 RCW.
 
             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
            We believe that this question is answerable in the affirmative.
 
                                                                     ANALYSIS
 
            In your letter you have made reference to, and enclosed a copy of, a letter which was written by this office, over the signature of Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey O. Lane, on April 30, 1974.  In this letter, which was written by Mr. Lane to a certain private attorney in the city of Arlington, Washington, the following response to essentially the same question as you have now posed appears:
 
            "Based upon the description of 'scatterboards' and their use as described in your letter of March 11, 1974 to Mr. Schillberg, and Mr. Twisselman's March 20, 1974 reply, there is no question in my mind that the activity is both a constitutionally prohibited lottery, and gambling, under chapter 218, Laws of 1973, 1st Ex. Sess.; chapter 9.46 RCW.
 
            "Section 2(13) of chapter 218, RCW 9.46.020(13), defines a lottery as follows:
 
            "'"Lottery" means a scheme for the distribution of money or property by chance, among persons who have paid or agreed to pay a valuable consideration for the chance.  . . .'
 
            "Each of these elements is obviously present.  See, State v. Reader's Digest Ass'n, 81 Wn.2d 259 (September, 1972); Seattle Times Co. v. Tielsch, 80 Wn.2d 502, 495 P.2d 1366 (April, 1972); and State ex rel. Schillberg v. Safeway, 75 Wn.2d 339, 450 P.2d 949 (1969).  Such lotteries are prohibited under Article II, section 24 of the constitution (Amendment 56) unless specifically authorized by the legislature or people.  Such scatterboards have never been authorized.
 
            "Further, the activity would constitute 'gambling' under § 2(8) of chapter 218 (RCW 9.46.020(8)).  Gambling is defined as follows:
 
             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] "'"Gambling".  A person engages in gambling if he stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that he or someone else will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.  . . .'
 
            "To conduct the activity would constitute 'professional gambling' under section 2(15) of chapter 218.
 
            "To conduct or aid in the conduct of the activity would constitute a felony under several sections of chapter 218.  See especially, sections 16, 18 and 22.  The penalty for committing each of these crimes is five years in jail, $100,000 fine, or both."
 
            Although this earlier letter did not constitute an "official opinion" of the attorney general when it was written, in view of the fact that it was not requested by a state officer or agency entitled to receive the official advice of this office, we have no doubt as to its correctness as a matter of law.  Accordingly, we hereby adopt its reasoning and conclusion as above set forth and, on the basis thereof, now officially adivse you that the scatterboard devices you have described, when used and operated in the manner you have further outlined, do constitute illegal lotteries and the conduct of gambling within the purview of chapter 9.46 RCW.
 
            We trust that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
 
Very truly yours,
 
SLADE GORTON
Attorney General

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo