TOPEKA — The state's anti-gambling founders probably wouldn't have approved, but Kansas unveiled a new lottery game Friday to get a jump on celebrating its 150th birthday.
The top prize for "Celebrating Our Statehood" is $1,500, but state officials hope it reaps big benefits for the Kansas Sesquicentennial by generating public awareness that events are coming, tied to next year's Jan. 29 anniversary.
The lottery began distributing 600,000 tickets Wednesday and expects 1,600 retailers to begin selling for $1 each within two weeks. Lottery officials plan to follow up with a second game featuring a $2 ticket in January.
One goal is driving traffic to the website for the 150th celebration. Each ticket contains the address, www.ks150.org.
"This way, Kansans, people from all over the country, the world will know what we are doing to honor our state at this significant milestone," said Mary Madden, the commemoration's chairwoman and director of education and outreach for the Kansas State Historical Society.
Kansas was admitted to the union on Jan. 29, 1861, becoming a new free state less than three months ahead of the Civil War.
The state's constitution said lotteries and the sale of lottery tickets were "forever prohibited."
"Forever" ran out in 1986, when Kansas voters approved an amendment authorizing a state-owned lottery. The amendment created an exception to the lottery ban and didn't remove the original language from the constitution.
Lottery Director Ed Van Petten said the juxtaposition suggests the progress Kansas and other states have made in keeping legalized gambling free of stigma.
Lt. Gov. Troy Findley, who participated in Friday's news conference, said the founders knew times would change and made provisions for amending the constitution.