Garden City — Increasingly popular fundraising activities such as poker runs and charity poker tournaments are illegal in Kansas, state gambling regulators said, though violations are rarely prosecuted.
Bill Miskell, a spokesman for the state Racing and Gaming Commission, told The Garden City Telegram for a story published Saturday that most people aren't aware that they're breaking law when they organize such events. He said the state leaves it up to county or district attorneys to decide whether they want to take action.
Finney County prosecutor John Wheeler said he doesn't see any sense in going after charitable events that help others without dipping into taxpayer money.
"We have a group or organization that sponsors something that's fun for a lot of people and raises money for a charity, and we call it a crime," Wheeler told the newspaper. "And it just seems to me to be contradictory, contrary, and I wish the Legislature would take a look at it after all these years."
In a poker run, motorcycle riders pay an entry or registration fee, and then drive to various locations to pick up playing cards. At their final stop, the person with the best poker hand wins a prize.
Several such poker runs have been conducted in Garden City this summer and in previous years. Miskell said it's a common misconception that poker runs and similar fundraisers are legal.
"Kansas is one of the four states in the United States that has no charitable gaming exceptions to their laws," he said. "Under Kansas law, there is no charitable exception to the Kansas gambling laws, and it would require a change in statute to make those kinds of events legal for certified, not-for-profit (organizations)."
Kendall Adler, president of a parent support organization for the Garden City High School wrestling team called the Takedown Club, had no idea a poker run he held in June was against the law.
"I tried to get all the information that I could, as far as having one and doing it and everything. And I talked to hundreds of people before we even set out to do ours, and I'm certain that not one person knew that," he said.
Wheeler, who has been county prosecutor for 20 years, said in light of all the violent crimes he's handled, prosecuting people for conducting charity poker runs isn't among his priorities.
Under the state's law, the three elements of consideration — such as a wager or entry fee — chance and a prize have to be present for an event to be deemed illegal.
Miskell said there are ways to make fundraisers involving poker runs compliant with state law, such as turning them into a game of skill instead of one based mostly on chance.
"What we've been encouraging people to do now, for about six weeks, is to put a deck, a regular 52-card deck, mount all the cards on a piece of cardboard, and when the first rider rides up, hand the rider a throwing dart, say 'There's the line, stand there and hit whichever card you can hit with that dart,' " he said.