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Rafflers in Kansas can now ask for more than a “donation”

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Gambling wasn’t viewed as a moral issue in need of prohibition under the state constitution when Kansas joined the union in 1861.  It wasn’t until the Texas-to-Kansas cattle drives brought hundreds of cowboys to Kansas railheads in the 1860s and gambling became part of the colorful life of cowtowns such as Dodge City that it became a matter of public concern.  In 1868 Kansans acted to outlaw all games of chance for money.

One hundred and forty-six year later, Kansans now have five ways they can legally pay money to take a chance on winning something of value.  Raffles were legalized by voter approval of a constitution amendment in this November’s election and join bingo, horse and dog race betting, a state lottery, and four casinos as sanctioned forms and places of gambling in the state.

The legalization of raffles may come as a surprise to Kansans who recall buying raffle tickets from very respectable groups in the past.  In such instances, however, the raffle sponsors were likely very careful to ask only for a “donation” for the raffle ticket and would have given one for free, if asked directly.  Organization fundraising policies cautioned that “laws and tax considerations relevant to the operations of raffles and other games of chance are, at times, confusing and perplexing” and spelled out very precise practices to stay within the law.

Just how simple and lucrative legalized raffles will be for non-profit organizations remains to be seen.  The Kansas Legislature will be defining the rules for conducting raffles in its upcoming session.  The regulations could cover a variety of potential issues: required licensing, fees for licenses, taxation of proceeds, frequency of raffles, value of prizes and even whether an organization can make its own raffle tickets or must use an approved vendor.  The constitutional amendment itself already includes some prohibitions.  Electronic gaming machines or vending machines can’t be used to sell tickets and organizations can’t contract with a professional raffle or other lottery vendor to run their raffles.

The language of the constitutional amendment approved by voters defines a raffle as “a game of chance in which each participant buys a ticket or tickets from a nonprofit organization, with each ticket providing an equal chance to win a prize and the winner being determined by a random drawing”.  It was approved by 75% of the vote.

Only nonprofit organizations are eligible to hold raffles under the amendment, including Churches, schools and fraternal, educational and veterans organizations.