In November, voters will decide whether to amend the Kansas State Constitution to allow nonprofit groups to have raffle fundraisers.

In November, voters will decide whether to amend the Kansas State Constitution to allow nonprofit groups to have raffle fundraisers.
Under current law, raffles are banned as a form of gambling, which was outlawed entirely at one point in Kansas’ history.
“It has been like that until the lottery started in 1982 or so,” said Sen. Clark Shultz, who represents McPherson County in the Kansas Senate.
Shultz said some forms of gambling have been legalized through the years. Last year, legislators passed a bill that would have legalized raffles for nonprofits, but Shultz said the governor rejected it because the ban is in the constitution.
However, the illegality of raffles hasn’t stopped groups from using them.
“These raffles have always been considered illegal, yet you see them all over the place,” Shultz said. “This amendment will provide for charitable raffles.”
The ban on raffles isn’t really enforced in practice, and there are loopholes that make raffles legal — for example, if people aren’t required to pay for a ticket. Margo Lysell used this loophole when organizing fundraisers for Mija Stockman, a McPherson gym teacher critically injured in a recent car accident.
“We put that tickets would be sold for a suggested donation, no purchase necessary, knowing if someone wanted a ticket that you had to simply give one to them,” Lysell said. “I believe that most people are good enough people that they’d never ask a charity to give them a ticket without paying for a cause.”
Shultz said he believes groups that want to use raffles are by and large already doing them, and the amendment will clarify the legality of doing so.
“There’s a lot of raffles going on, and I think in most cases they don’t know it’s technically illegal,” Shultz said.
One group that hasn’t held raffles is MCDS, which supports people with disabilities. Doug Wisby, CEO of MCDS, a service provider for the developmentally disabled, said he would love to have raffles if the amendment passes.
“Our system is chronically underfunded, and it would be another way to raise funds for disabilities,” Wisby said. “They occur statewide as it is, and allowing a not-for-profit to utilize them as a fundraiser makes a lot of sense.”
However, not all nonprofits would take advantage of legal raffles. Ann Koehn, president of Women and Children Combating Cancer, said her organization raises enough money through other means.
“We’ve met our needs with the events we have, such as silent and live auctions and our recent Farkle tournament,” Koehn said. “The community has been really supportive.”
Because so many groups have raffles anyway, Rep. Steven Johnson, who represents Lindsborg in the State House, said the goal is to eliminate any uncertainty.
“I don’t know that it’ll make a lot of changes,” Johnson said. “We wanted to make it clear that nonprofits can have this kind of event.”
Rep. Les Mason, who represents McPherson, said he doesn’t expect a whole lot to change if the amendment passes.
“It’s a safety valve for those organizations that want to use them,” Mason said. “They’re already doing it, so this makes sure they can do it legally.”