November ballot measure could legalize raffles for Kansas nonprofits

08/17/2014 2:05 PM

08/17/2014 2:05 PM

For years, Kansas school groups, churches and charities have raised money by selling raffle tickets for a chance to win prizes – televisions, iPads, autographed basketballs or tickets to concerts.

That’s illegal gambling, according to state law, but people for the most part have looked the other way.

In November, Kansas voters will have a chance to amend the state constitution to allow nonprofits to conduct raffle fundraisers legally.

Kansas lawmakers passed a measure this spring to put the proposed amendment on the general election ballot. If a simple majority of voters approve on Nov. 4, the constitution would be changed to allow charitable raffles operated or conducted by religious, charitable, fraternal, educational and veterans’ nonprofit organizations.

“Right now raffles are not legal,” said Patsy Congrove, administrator of charitable gaming for the Kansas Department of Revenue. “But yes, unfortunately, they do happen.

“This public vote means voters will decide whether they want those legalized or not, but only for nonprofits.”

The Kansas constitution once said all forms of lotteries were “forever prohibited.” Voters previously approved three amendments allowing exceptions for bingo, parimutuel wagering and a state-owned and operated lottery.

“Raffle” is defined in the proposed amendment to mean 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.

If the amendment passes, Kansas lawmakers would write statutes regulating raffles during next year’s legislative session. They likely would decide whether organizations would need a raffle license, how much a license would cost, how often a group could conduct raffles and whether raffle sales would be taxed.

If the measure is approved, the Department of Revenue would oversee the licensing and regulation of raffles, Congrove said. New regulations likely would take effect in July 2015.

Despite laws prohibiting them, bingo nights and raffles are commonplace at many Kansas schools. In May, Wichita district officials sent a note to principals aimed at clarifying bingo regulations and asked them to forward the information to parent-teacher groups.

That prompted some parents to consider canceling bingo night fundraisers or changing them to ask for voluntary contributions rather than charging for bingo cards.

Congrove, the state official, said her office occasionally finds out about groups conducting raffles or hosting bingo nights without a license. But a simple warning usually does the trick.

“If we hear about it, then we contact the party and let them know that it’s illegal and they are conducting illegal games, and that generally pretty much takes care of it,” she said.

“Because these games are run by volunteers, when they get a letter from the Department of Revenue or a call from us, they’re going to stop. They do not want to break the law. So we’ve never had an issue.

“Once they were aware of that, they stopped it immediately.”

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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