Fix to legalize charity raffles advances in Kansas

Kansas state Sens. Les Donovan, left, of Republicans, and Jeff King, of Independence, confer during the Senate's session, Wednesday, March 12, 2014, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Both Republicans voted for a proposed amendment to the state constitution to legalize charitable raffles. (AP Photo/John Hanna)
Kansas state Sens. Les Donovan, left, of Republicans, and Jeff King, of Independence, confer during the Senate's session, Wednesday, March 12, 2014, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Both Republicans voted for a proposed amendment to the state constitution to legalize charitable raffles. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — While Kansas has a state lottery and state-owned casinos, charity raffles aren’t legal — but legislators took a big step Wednesday toward reversing that situation.

The state Senate approved, 35-0, a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution to permit nonprofit religious, charitable, fraternal, education and veterans groups to operate raffles. The vote sends the measure to the House.

Legalizing charity raffles requires a constitutional amendment because the constitution once said all forms of lotteries were “forever prohibited.” The term “lottery” has been interpreted broadly enough by the state’s courts to include any enterprise that has people paying money to get a random chance to win a prize. In the past, the courts have done so to foreclose as many forms of gambling-like activity as possible.

Nonprofit groups’ bingo games, betting on dog and horse races, the state lottery and casinos owned by the lottery are all allowed by voter-approved exceptions to the blanket ban on lotteries.

“We like slot machines, but evidently, the constitution is biased against quilts,” said Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, a Nickerson Republican, referring to raffles that include quilts. “It is an anomaly, and we need to fix it.”

If the House also adopts the proposed amendment by a two-thirds majority, the measure will go on the August primary ballot, when its approval by a simple majority of voters would change the constitution.

The text of the proposed amendment reflects some misgivings about adding a new exception from opponents of legalized gambling. They felt burned in the years after the 1986 constitutional change authorizing a state lottery, when the state Supreme Court declared the provision also allowed state-owned casinos.

The latest proposed amendment would prohibit a nonprofit group from contracting with a “professional raffle or other lottery vendor” to run its enterprise. Also, raffles would be licensed and regulated by the state Department of Revenue.

The proposal cleared the Senate with little debate, but four conservative Republicans — Tom Arpke of Salina, Ty Masterson of Andover, Dennis Pyle of Hiawatha and Greg Smith of Overland Park — passed on the final vote.

Legislators last year tried to take an easier path to allowing charity raffles, by amending state laws against illegal gambling to make an exception for such events. But Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed the bill, saying it violated the state constitution.

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Online:

Information about the proposed amendment: http://bit.ly/1nP7AIF

Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter at www.twitter.com/apjdhanna .

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