Done well, a casino night is more than a fundraiser. It’s a chance for parents to have a night of kid-free fun. The PTA at Robert E. Willett Elementary in Davis, Calif., made a modest profit of $10,000 from its first casino night fundraiser last fall, but the event was wildly popular.

“The parents who came were like young couples in a nightclub all over again,” says PTA vice president Barbara Archer. “We publicized it as a date night, that maybe you can’t afford to go to Vegas, so we’re bringing it all to you and you’re helping your child’s school.”

About 400 people attended—100 more than expected—many of them purchasing tickets at the door to play craps, blackjack, and roulette. Tickets cost $35 a person, which proved to be a bit of a hard sell at first. The PTA?explained what was included in the ticket price in its newsletter. To encourage advance sales, it offered a “high roller” package with one ticket plus 500 chips for $50. More chips could be purchased during the evening; about $1,000 was raised through these additional chip sales. Teachers received complimentary tickets. “I would advise any school to do that,” Archer says. “They all came, and many brought spouses.” One teacher even asked if the event could be held twice a year.

The event was held from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., with gaming from 8 to 10. After gaming ended, players traded their chips for raffle tickets and drawings were held. Prizes included a hotel stay, a wine-tasting party for six, and a teacher’s “baby-sitting and craft night.”

To reduce food costs, the caterer provided savory foods and the PTA contributed sweets and drinks, including donated alcohol. The event did not have a cash bar since California law prohibits parent groups from selling alcohol. There was a buffet table, and students from a university service organization helped serve hors d’oeuvres.

PTA leaders recruited new parents to help decorate. They were led by a creative parent who is the set director for a local opera group. Casino-themed wallpaper lined the walls, which featured a “Welcome to Las Davis” sign modeled on the one in Las Vegas. Giant dice were constructed from wrapped boxes decorated with circles. A glue gun and some dollar store items—play money, gold coins, packs of playing cards, shiny red paper, and a weight—were made into table decorations.

Publicity included newspaper ads sponsored by a local car dealership. “We took some of their weekly ad space and put their name across our ad,” says Joy Klineberg, who chaired the casino night. Next year, the parent group plans to have additional gaming tables and a silent auction to increase profits.