Is Ronnie Kroell Using the Human Rights Campaign to Run an Illegal Lottery?

Reality star and Playgirl model Ronnie Kroell hopes a chance to win “a trip to New York City” will be enough to entice you to donate at least $125 to the Human Rights Campaign. Too bad this means Kroell is not running a sweepstakes, but a lottery — and possibly an illegal one at that.

Although Kroell says on his website that he’s offering “contest packages,” he’s actually attempting to engage you in a sweepstakes. (Contests require skill; sweepstakes rely on luck.) But by requiring you to hand over money in order to “play,” Kroell is operating what most legal experts would deem a lottery. In order for a chance to win one of 50 prize packages — including the grand prize, which offers “round-trip airline ticket to NYC from anywhere in the 48 contiguous States (or a cash voucher towards a ticket from Hawaii, Alaska, or entries from countries outside the US), 2 night/3 day stay at a boutique NYC Hotel, AND a night out on the town to chill with yours truly!” — participants must hand HRC a donation of at least $125. Except replace the word “donation” with “entry fee.”

Lottery laws vary from state to state, and many might consider Kroell’s enterprise a “raffle.” But raffles too have their own set of rules and regulations, which also vary depending on the state. By running his lottery online, Kroell is arguably conducting business in all 50 U.S. states; the limited copy on his site does not exclude any states from participating. (Moreover, one thing that almost all states agree on is that explicit rules about any raffle or contest must be posted; none are listed on Kroell’s site.) While non-profits are legally approved to conduct raffles in some states, other states expressly outlaw them for any group; Arkansas, Hawaii (“Raffles are not legal if you must purchase tickets to participate”), and Kansas are among those banning them outright.

It’s unclear if Kroell is working in tandem with HRC, but the organization is the clear beneficiary of Kroell’s activity. Kroell’s language on the site suggests he’s not working directly with HRC, but you: “I have decided to team up with all of you to raise money for The Human Rights Campaign.” (The motivation for his fundraising efforts? Prop 8.)

And if Kroell is the one conducting the contest himself as an individual, and not a part of a 501(3)(c) non-profit like HRC, he’ll run afoul of many state laws — even those that legalize raffles for charities. Like Rhode Island: “The game must be conducted by a charitable organization. Only members of the organization can be involved in the control and management of the game. All proceeds, minus the expenses of the game, must be used for a charitable purpose. No one under the age of 18 is allowed to participate.” Moreover, many states require non-profits to file forms with the secretary of state notifying them they’re conducting a raffle. It’s unclear whether Kroell did this with any state government.

In California, it’s possible Kroell violated any number of state regulations. A contest must post “the date(s) upon which the contest will terminate, and upon which all prizes will be awarded.” Kroell did not. Failure to follow the rules could result in misdemeanor charges. In Texas, an “unlawful raffle could be considered illegal gambling, which may carry criminal penalties.” In Nebraska, a bi-annual $30 fee is required to run unlimited raffles for non-profits.

Will Kroell or HRC face any real criminal liability for running an illegal lottery or raffle? Doubtful. Most state law enforcement agencies don’t have the resources to go after small-time enterprises, and most would be further reluctant to go after any that, even indirectly, benefit a non-profit.

And while it’s a noble thing to do, offer trips and prizes in exchange for do-gooding, it’s an example of what not to do in trying to bundle money for the Human Rights Campaign. Or you could decide that giving money to an organization that helps anti-gay corporations defend their LGBT records isn’t the best investment to make anyhow, even for a “chance” to win a DVD set.

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  • WalkderDC

    The latest HRC falsehood that they are trying to say to make themselves seem that they are not a group of elitst out of touch folks is that the majority of their donations or for under $25.00. (See, the “Little People” support us guys!)

    Only problem being that HRC calls anything a “Donation” including somebody buying a card in their store for $3.00, sombody buying one of their equal bumperstickers online etc…. Figured I’d sat that in response to all the posts they were most likely going to make on this article.

    As for this case, I hope this guy doesn’t get into trouble, however you feel about HRC it just sounds like he was trying to help out.


    Nice of ya to toss Ronnie under the bus Queerts. It is stated very clear in the terms outlined regarding the effort you copied above the money goes directley to HRC via a secure link. He is most definatley trying to help out the org. I try and defend you guys most of the time but this one is an EPIC FAIL

  • Dawson

    Funny, but I don’t see the HRC constantly bashing QT. Nah, its the other way around. Like it or not, we are all gay, we all want our rights, we need to find a way to work together. This constant back biting reminds me why I normally stay far far away from the gay club scene.

  • james_from_the_great_city_of_cambridge

    Wow, that is some impressive investigative work by Queerty. Too bad it was on such a ridiculous story but good to see you guys have it in you. How about doing this kind of investigative journalism on the people trying to hurt our community? I’m sure there’s no end to the criminality organizations like NOM & FRC engage in on a daily basis in conducting the business of their “non-profits” (there’s no way they’re not misusing their donations, which are, after all, heavily regulated by the Feds), seeing as how many of them are plugged in to the political structure.

    At the very least, do an expose on Davey Wavey & his alien face.

  • jeff r

    Gentlemen: I have no problem with your bashing HRC and the others in Gay, Inc., who haven’t necessarily exerted their best efforts on behalf of our community. I do have a problem with Queerty when it attacks one of our own, Ronnie Kroell, who is simply attempting to help his community. Shame on you! You make PerezHilton look like Mother Teresa.

    You should have taken the high road and contacted Ronnie Kroell off the record, making him aware of the allegations contained in your post and given him the opportunity to correct the same, without publicizing such a snarky, bitchy piece. Shame on you!

    I think that your categorization of Ronnie Kroell as a “Reality star and PLAYGIRL MODEL” was incredibly bitchy, Mr Rogers. He’s also a student, activist, philanthropist, partner, businessman and model. Why didn’t you include that information in your introductory statement? Not attention getting enough? So Ronnie Kroell posed for “Playgirl?!?” BFD! Kudos to Ronnie that 18 years after Dirk Shafer’s appearance as “Playgirl’s” “Man Of The Year” and his subsequent documentary and 7 years after Scott Merritt’s “Advocate” cover story Ronnie Kroell worked with “Playgirl” to celebrate the hotness of an openly gay man in an ostensibly woman’s magazine. That’s a bad thing?!? Being an openly gay reality personality is a bad thing?!? Continually wasting space on a formerly closeted, has been boy bander’s romantic life is a good thing? Promoting Davey Wavey rather than someone who is talented like a Matt Maggiacomo or Will Pulos, amongst many others, is a good thing? Shame on you and shame on the editorial board of Queerty.

    @ James and PWWO: Bravo!

    @Mr. Rogers: Feel free to contact your co-wroker Daniel Villarreal and he’ll assure you that I am not some crazed internet commentator but rather someone who does not like to see well meaning members of his community trashed in the gay media simply to gain attention for a site. There are enough enemies of the lgbt community who merit your attention much more. What a waste of your efforts!
    Jeff R

  • Jon B

    Seriously… this is fucked up. This is the most in depth article you guys have possibly ever posted, and it’s about tearing down someone trying to do something good for gay rights? It genuinely sounds like the author is smiling that in his attempt to do some good, Ronnie Kroell may have missed a few legal loopholes. Fuck you guys.


    Maybe someone has a grudgebecause possibly Ronnie didn’t wish to visit Mr.Roger’s neighborhood………

  • kurt_t

    Well, news is news. If famous gay person X saves Paris Hilton’s puppy from a burning hair salon, that’s news. If famous gay person Y goes on a three-day coke binge and shoplifts costume jewelry from a discount store in Tulsa, that’s news. If you’re gonna get your thong in a knot every time a reporter catches a gay celebrity doing something sleazy, you better hope George Michael spends the rest of his life in rehab.

  • Cam

    @Dawson: said..

    Funny, but I don’t see the HRC constantly bashing QT. Nah, its the other way around. Like it or not, we are all gay, we all want our rights, we need to find a way to work together. This constant back biting reminds me why I normally stay far far away from the gay club scene.

    Yes, that is funny. Know what I think is funny? How

    HRC attacked the lawsuit against prop 8, once it had a good decision they are out trying to act as though they were part of it.

    HRC opposed the march for equality, then finally when it was happening finally backed off and gave it a small mention.

    HRC put out a memo that said basically, gays should not complain about our rights until OBama was out of office.

    HRC has been attacking Dan Choi, Get Equal, and anybody else who seems to be taking their spotlight. They attacked Get Equal for harrassing our “Friends”. Well these friends were doing nothing, and the White House said publicly that there would be no movement on DADT this year. Get Equal did sit in’s at Nancy Pelosi’s office, Pelosi finally pushed a bill through Congress and told the White House it was happening even if they didn’t want it.

    Remember, if people had listened to HRC, and dropped every lawsuit that they wanted them to drop, we would never have gotten marriage in MA. nor in any other state, the Prop 8 lawsuit wouldn’t have happened. DADT repeal wouldn’t have been voted on this year. etc…

  • Ted

    How does this article reflect on your title of the blog? I am not gay nor do I have any ill feeling for my gay brothers and sisters, but to see one gay man try and destroy a positive gay man makes me sick. I have know Ronnie for about 8 years now before he did anything to become famous and he is still the same person trying to bring out the best in everyone and do the best for everyone he meets gay or not gay.

    You really should try and focus on the best of your community or at the least try and talk to the person you are going to do an article about before you publish it so you have all of your facts.

    You had some good points but they were all lost when you made no attempt in talking to the one person you were bashing in the first place.
    free of agenda except the gay one. (Don’t forget gay bashing) because that is what this article is way to go.

  • Blaine Ward

    @Ted: Amen to that!

  • jeff r

    @Kurt: The alleged “reporter” did not catch Ronnie Kroell doing anything “sleazy.” Ronnie Kroell was attempting to raise money for HRC, an ineffective organization, IMO, that Cam rightly criticized. He was doing a good deed – trying to raise money for an lgbt organization. His choice of said organization can be questioned and criticized but not his intentions. I cannot fault anyone for trying to help any lgbt organization. Can you? Ronnie Kroell’s conduct was not “sleazy” in any sense of the term.

    If anyone deserves to be criticized for the alleged irregularities of this fund raising attempt, it’s HRC, not Ronnie Kroell. He was just lending his celebrity and support to an lbgt fund raising operation. Given HRC’s track record of late, no one should be surprised that they have royally fucked up the same.

    Mr Roger’s post was a bitchy, nasty hatchet job attacking a respected member of the lgbt community because he is an easy target as a celebrity. Nothing more. Queerty singled out Ronnie Kroell because he has a “name.” It’s blatant gay bashing and intolerable on a gay site. Shame on them! The correct, intelligent and proper response would have been to contact Ronnie Kroell – it’s not that difficult and I’m sure that even Mr. Rogers could have mastered that – make him aware of their concerns, allowed him the opportunity to review the same and take any actions which he deemed appropriate and then Queerty could have gone after HRC for another alleged fuck up. That, however, would require compassion, ethics, integrity and intelligence, something which the “reporter” is sorely lacking, IMO.

  • Stephanie A. Jones JD LLM MPH Esq.

    Really Seth ?!? Really Amy !?!

    This is the highest and best use of the writer’s evident talents for research and writing?

    When the LGBTQ community has achingly limited resources at work for the good of the community?

    Seems like it was just yesterday that Queerty proudly published a photo of me holding a bottle of vodka and a whole mess of PLAYGIRL’s and lauded Ronnie Kroell’s “Cocktail.”

    Now, I don’t know why your boy shorts are in a twist, and I am not going to ramble on about the patently good-heartedness of my best friend and business partner, when it is obvious to all, I’ll just let you know that our charity could use a writer of your ability to work on some projects when you decide to lend your gifts to a useful effort in the world.

    Thanks for all the great posts, friends.

  • Stephanie A. Jones JD LLM MPH Esq.

    PS When next you choose to comment on Ronnie Kroell, you can reach him or me at [email protected].

    I will presume you will take advantage of my providing you this contact in the future prior to your blithering on, querying all but he who could answer your questions should you simply ask him.

  • Stephanie A. Jones JD LLM MPH Esq.

    From Ronnie via http://www.ronniekroell.com

    I just read this and I thought I’d share it with y’all:

    “In case you haven’t read it yet, I thought I would share a blog written by John Rogers over at QUEERTY that attempts to throw our efforts of raising money for the HRC under the bus. Oh, John, you caught me! Running an illegal lottery is the least of my concerns especially now since you have led the authorities to subsequently uncover my child labor camp, my drug cartel organization, and my supermodel torture facility – much like the one in the Hostel movies. Damn, I really thought I had it all figured out, but kudos to you Mr. Rogers! My “Pinky & The Brain” plot to take over the world has been foiled again and Gotham can rest peacefully tonight.

    Let me make it crystal clear, I am not and have never run an illegal lottery. As it is, I have too many occupation titles after my name – Ronnie Kroell – model, actor, activist…thief? Please, give me a little more credit than that? I started my first not-for-profit organization when I was 23 years old and currently am the co-founder of a not-for-profit, GeekNerdWonk, that is “Helping Charities Help Themselves” by raising money, conducting research projects, and assisting in grant writing proposals. I am an everyday American citizen that simply wants to see our freedoms protected.

    I have to say thank you, John, for being a shining example of the main challenge that the LGBT Community is facing. We, are our own worst enemy. Why, you ask? Because we are willing to eat our own in order to satisfy ego, to create a buzz, and/or to temporarily fill some void that exists deep within ourselves. It seems that there are no limits when it comes to satisfying this need – even if others are hurt or disadvantaged in the process. Many of us behave like prepubescent children on a playground making fun of each other, criticizing each other, and then cowardly hiding behind our cliques. The truth of the matter is that there is serious work to be done, work that will take a community that is united to accomplish – not a community divided.

    The Human Rights Campaign is a worthy cause, and a cause that the individuals whom have chosen to donate via my website believe in. Even if I had blindly mistepped, which I have not, I would responsibly own up to and accept the consequences for that negligence. All monies not used to pay for shipping costs of packages or prizes awarded will be donated directly to HRC so that they may continue their human rights work in the community, period.

    With that being said, Mr. Rogers, I certainly do not want to be your neighbor and I would kindly ask that you keep your negativity off my lawn.”

  • Cam

    @Stephanie A. Jones JD LLM MPH Esq.: said that Ronnie Kroell said…

    “The Human Rights Campaign is a worthy cause, and a cause that the individuals whom have chosen to donate via my website believe in. Even if I had blindly mistepped, which I have not, I would responsibly own up to and accept the consequences for that negligence. All monies not used to pay for shipping costs of packages or prizes awarded will be donated directly to HRC so that they may continue their human rights work in the community, period.”

    I thought Ronnie did well except for that part. Frnakly, his response was funny and quick, it’s a shame that HRC doesn’t respond quite as well.

    Back to the section above. This is my problem with people new to being a gay celeb, or straight people who don’t follow our issues that much…

    The ONE thing HRC has been good at, is convincing straights and people outside DC that they are a worth cause. Why is Ronnie Kroell doing a fundraiser for them? He is gay, and somewhat famous and probably has gone to a few gala events etc… that were sponsored by HRC or where he has seen a heavy HRC precence. He isn’t as aware of the smaller grass roots organizations that get in the trenches and really fight because they can’t put on events like that. So his heart is in the right place. It’s just a shame that this amount of money he is raising, which could keep a place like “Silvia’s House. a shelter for young gays kicked out of their homes” running for a year, will be spent on Joe Solmnase’s next shopping spree at Armani.

  • Kristian

    Seriously, I’m very surprised, appalled and soooooooooooooooooooooooooooo freakin embarrassed for Mr Rogers. How dare you! How absurd! How absurd! Wake up! Slap yourself, look in the mirror man, are you telling me and the world that you don’t want a young talented individual such as Ronnie Kroell to help our next generation to be educated. WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP! I mean come on… Heck I live in little town America and no one in their right mind would ever post something so despicable towards someone in their own gay community and if they did they would just tarnish any credibility or any future of having anyone listen to them ever again.

    Use your talents for good, not evil, we have enough to worry about on a daily basis, heck I have a hard enough time forming my own diversity team at a fortune 500 company, I don’t need my own community bashing any efforts of positive role models in our youth today.

    So lets get the facts correct next time, before you make falsified accusations about one of ours and your fellow positive role models in this decade and most likely decades to come.

  • Jeffree

    I’m looking forward to Mr. John Roger’s response to Ms. S. Jones and Mr. R. Kroell’s well-written and heart-felt posts.

    The lack of a reply, to date, is rather disheartening. If Qty wants to play in the “big leagues” of blogging it needs to step up to the plate. Is this site just for gosssip or for some actual reporting?

    Decide soon, and please let your readers know.

  • Stephanie A. Jones JD LLM MPH Esq.

    @Cam: Ronnie’s and my GeekNerdWonk Charitable Foundation’s Grantees have, in the last fiscal year, included small charities, including the Take Back Pride Campaign (New York); Womankind Kenya (Kenya); Center on Halsted (Chicago), NYV Anti-Violence Project (New York); White Knot (Los Angeles); H.O.P.E. for an Unreached World (Uganda); the “Hate Crime is HUMAN CRIME” campaign for Jorge Steven López Mercado (New York); New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (Albany, New York); STOP Partner Abuse/Domestic Violence (at L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, Los Angeles), Drinking for a Change (New York), Haitian Relief (with Daffy’s Corporation) (New York).

    We also support many of our friends in the HRC. One needn’t be exclusively small grassroots vs. national organizations.

    Just for clarification. Ronnie and I work MUCH more devotedly on small, underfunded charities in a variety of civil liberty work. See http://www.geeknerdwonk.org

  • Stephanie A. Jones JD LLM MPH Esq.

    @Jeffree: Ahhh Jeffree. It is rather painfully evident that either Ronnie or I (and God help him if we had been together in the effort), dispatched Mr. Rogers utterly prior to our having our morning coffee.

    There’s really nothing for him to say, now is there :-) ?

    (Sound of wiping hands).

    Thanks for your support.

  • JIM

    First of all hahahahhaha!
    Secondly, its sad that anyone would abuse his “status” to take advantage of a charity and the people that support it, but the unfortunate truth is it happens all the time.

    Ronnie had a similar contest a year ago with the Instinct cover on his website — that contest has never ended. I would even question whether or not HRC ever received any of the money.

    I would also question his language in his responses. “All monies not used to pay for shipping costs of packages or prizes awarded will be donated directly to HRC” — so after he deducts his appearance fee and hourly rates.

    Its time for Ronnie to own up and answer the hard questions.

    Mr. Rodgers-
    Good job. Hold him accountable.
    I’d follow-up with HRC about the previous “contest” and whether or not they have EVER received any money from him.
    I’d also investigate his new charity and whether he is paying himself for his “master of ceremony” title and other “personal fees”
    While deducting for these types of costs is not illegal its shady — and starting a charity to profit off of it is just gross.

    I love my community too much to see it be taken advantage of by a tv reality “star” grasping at his few seconds of fame.
    Let’s face it. He posed for playgirl –GOT PAID, PUT THE MONEY IN HIS POCKET and promoted it under the guise of human rights, blah, blah, blah.
    It’s BS. and we all know it.

  • Mark K.

    Isn’t his business “partner” (stephanie) also his lawyer?!?!?!
    I could forgive an apparent mistake from him but since he obviously has a lawyer he should know better. He just really looks like he was trying to pull off some sort of scam now.

    Time to get a new lawyer.

  • Stephanie A. Jones JD LLM MPH Esq.

    @JIM: 1. “Abuse his status” to take advantage of a charity? Illogical remark. These prizes for donations are to benefit HRC, monies that the HRC would not see were it not for this donation with incentives. 2. The Instinct magazine donation did not end: the Instinct magazine has been added to the PLAYGIRL magazine package so as to augment the incentive to donate to the HRC. 3. The HRC has not received any money from this donation incentive package as there remain I believe 6 available for donation. When the remaining 6 donations are received, the Instinct-now-augmented-with-PLAYGIRL package will have concluded, and the monies after costs sent to HRC. 4. Ronnie has not and will not receive one cent from our charity. No “Master of Ceremonies” or hourly fees for appearances. Were one to start a charity so as to pocket such fees, this would be, in your inelegant phrase, “gross,” which is why I am so very glad that we have a charity that GIVES (see list of Grantees above) and from which we do not TAKE. 5. Anyone who read the interview contained in PLAYGIRL or the dozens upon dozens of interviews Ronnie conducted surrounding its release knows that Ronnie is a political science student, and this project was as much about his political sensibilities, cultivating diversity and multiculturalism, and a statement of celebration of the body,as it was an artistic project.

    Save for some bitter, intentionally ugly people hiding in cyberland, this is what “we” all know.

  • Stephanie A. Jones JD LLM MPH Esq.

    @Mark K.: I have a doctorate and post-doctorate in law, and a license to practice law. I also happen to have other degrees.

    I am not Ronnie’s lawyer, I am his business partner who happens to have rather extensive legal training. I do not practice law for a living.

    Moreover, I was not his business partner when this donation-project was conceived (with the Instinct magazine incentive),

    As Ronnie clearly stated in his blog (www.ronniekroell.com, and above) if there were any missteps in his effort to raise funds for HRC, he of course would take responsibility for these missteps.

    I am agog at the lengths to which some people (thankfully the minority) will go to impute ugly motives to a man known nationally for his character and integrity and goodness.

    Of course the massive waste of time that was the dialogue could have been easily averted had Mr. Rogers contacted Ronnie PRIOR to drafting this attacking, baseless drivel.

  • Mark K.

    Stephanie- blah, blah, blah, blah

    I think the point of all the questioning is PROVE IT!

    Just because Ronnie claims to be donating the money doesn’t mean he actually is. And if he is how much of it?

    Ronnie can say whatever he wants, but until he can prove it — HE SHOULD BE QUESTIONED! He’s taking money from people and there is no proof, no receipt that it ever goes anywhere other than his bank account.

    It’s a completely legitimate claim Mr. Rogers is making. These things happen and it was only a matter of time before the question was raised in our community.

    I would suggest you stop whining and PROVE IT.

  • Jake Rite

    This is absolutely true. He still owes me over a $1000 dollars and has refused to pay any of it. There is no trip or prizes because this is what Mr. Ronnie Kroell does. DONT LET THIS STORY DIE!!!!

  • Jake Rite

    @JIM: YES SIR….You said exactly what I wanted to hear. These contest that he, and he alone “creates” will never end until he has drained every single dollar out of these poor guys who are so blindly in love with him. He knows how to use what he has, and creating a fake charity is the way of doing so!

Comments are closed.