Gambling for Charity: Jay-Z’s Fundraiser at Ocean Casino Raises Millions for REFORM Alliance

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On Saturday, September 30, rapper and businessman Jay-Z co-hosted a star-studded charitable fundraiser at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City. Jay Z, who partnered with Caesars Entertainment earlier this year for a bid to open a branch in Times Square, knows how to throw a casino event. 

The fundraiser was to support the non-profit REFORM Alliance, an organization tied to justice and incarceration reform. Event attendees included prominent celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Tom Brady. Meek Mill and Micheal Rubin, co-chairs of REFORM Alliance, were also present, as reported by agamble NJ, a casino guide for New Jersey.

More on REFORM 

REFORM Alliance is a charity dedicated to improving probation and parole laws in the United States. Founded in 2019, the organization results from a parole incident personally involving Mr. Mill. The incident sparked the “Free Meek” movement, a docuseries of the same name, and the organization's creation. Jay Z is among one of the many founding partners.

The charity has already successfully passed legislation in several states to improve criminal rehabilitation processes. A press release from the organization about the event stated: “The black-tie party transcends beyond the usual fundraising gala concept to bring together the nation's top leaders outside of REFORM's board for the first time to raise a goal of $20 million for criminal justice reform.”

The Event 

The event was held at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City. Ocean Casino (previously Revel Casino Hotel) has enjoyed significant financial growth since it re-opened in June 2018. In the first half of 2023, it was the second-highest-grossing casino in Atlantic City, with a gross operating profit of $47.57 million. 

Charity events such as this can bring new clientele to a casino and help forge a stronger connection between the establishment and the community. The guest list for the “James Bond-themed party” was small but elite. Among Kardashian and Brady, other big names attending included Jack Harlow, Travis Scott, Quavo, and French Montana. 

Comedian Kevin Hart hosted the event. Entertainment included a blackjack tournament, dinner, and after-party with performances and dancing. An auction was also part of the occasion, and a subsequent bidding war for a painting by George Condo—which was eventually sold for over $2 million—created headline-worthy moments. 

Financials 

The buy-in fee for the blackjack event was reportedly $100,000. Those who did not wish to buy in were invited to contribute a minimum of $50,000 to the charity to attend. The auction alone, which also included items donated by Brady, Rashid Johnson, and Jay-Z, raised roughly $7.8 million. 

Andrew Goldberg, winner of the $1 million final blackjack hand, donated $750,000 of his winnings to the foundation. Founding member and CEO of REFORM Alliance expressed, “Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine a night like tonight.” The event exceeded its target, raising more than $24 million in total. 

The Impact and Importance of Charitable Gaming 

Casino-themed fundraisers are a popular way to raise money. On a large scale, such as with Jay-Z's 007-themed event, charitable gaming events can raise millions. On a small scale, they may help bring together donors for much-needed funding for local causes or families in need. 

Charitable gaming also includes local raffles and bingo tournaments, as well as games of roulette, lotteries, slots, and poker tournaments. Not all types of games are legal everywhere in the United States—laws governing charitable gambling vary per state. Auctions may be subject to special regulations in some regions.  

Relationship Between Casinos and Fundraising 

There has always been a strong relationship between casinos and fundraising. Casinos benefit by attracting different demographics, increasing positive public relations, and building community ties. Many famous U.S. Casinos, such as MGM and Las Vegas Sands, have contributed charitably in several other ways. 

For patrons, gambling for a cause is a creative way to approach charity and philanthropy. Events such as Jay-Z's “James Bond” fundraising party bring gaming enthusiasts and donors together in one space to support a cause in a fun and entertaining way. 

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