Statewide ballot question would authorize raffles

? Proposals to expand legalized gambling usually stir huge controversy in Kansas. But a proposed constitutional amendment on Tuesday’s ballot regarding raffles has drawn relatively little attention.

If approved, the amendment would allow nonprofit, religious, charitable, fraternal, educational, or veterans organizations to operate raffles as fundraisers.

A raffle is defined as a game of chance in which each participant buys a ticket from one of the qualifying organizations, with each ticket having an equal chance to win a prize, and with the winner determined by a random drawing.

Organizations conducting raffles would not be allowed to sell tickets through electronic gaming or vending machines. They also would not be allowed to contract with professional lottery or raffle companies to manage and operate raffles.

Originally, the Kansas Constitution outlawed all forms of lotteries and casino gaming. But in 1974, voters approved an amendment to allow charitable organizations to run bingo games, which are considered a type of lottery. And in 1986, voters approved another amendment to allow pari-mutuel betting at dog and horse tracks and a state owned and operated lottery.

For several years after that, pro-gaming groups tried to pass legislation to approve expanded gambling, including slot machines at the racetracks, but year after year those went down in defeat.

In 2007, lawmakers passed a bill to expand the definition of a “lottery” to include games of chance that are normally thought of as casino gaming. Strictly speaking, those casinos are owned and operated by the state of Kansas, although the state contracts out with private gaming companies for their day-to-day operation and management.

There are currently state-owned casinos operating in the Kansas City, Wichita and Dodge City areas.

In 2013, the Legislature passed another bill that would have allowed charitable groups to expand beyond bingo by offering other types of lotteries such as raffles, but Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed that legislation, saying it would violate the Constitution.

In his veto message, however, Brownback said he would support the policy goal of allowing limited types of charitable raffles, and he encouraged the Legislature to consider a constitutional amendment.

Lawmakers approved such an amendment this year, but now it must be approved by a majority of voters before it becomes law.

If approved, the amendment would authorize the Legislature to authorize the licensing, conduct and regulation of charitable raffles by qualifying organizations.