They’re as common as walking trails and coffee shops in Gardner, and they’re illegal.
The Kansas statutes that make poker runs and raffles unlawful have been on the books for decades, but according to Bill Miskell, public information officer for the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, the laws themselves are receiving increased scrutiny recently from groups who had no idea their fundraisers were breaking the law.
“A number of people who give us a call say they never realized they were doing anything illegal,” Miskell said. “We want you able to raise money for a worthwhile event and do it in compliance with the law.”
In Kansas, there are three elements that determine whether an event is legal – consideration, which is an entry fee or bet; chance and prize.
“It depends on how the event is organized, but if it involves the three elements, it is in most cases, illegal gambling,” Miskell said.
That includes most charity raffles.
“Raffles in most cases are going to be illegal whether it’s a 50/50 or some other kind of raffle. We work with event organizers to the extent possible to try to make their event compliant with Kansas law,” Miskell said. “In some cases, that’s not possible to do.”
The law could affect some local events. For example, Robert Cook said he was planning a poker run to raise money for brain injury groups at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
The event, “Riding with Reece,” is an annual thank you ride and run that started after Reece Good, a former Gardner resident, was shot in the head while returning from Sturgis several years ago.
The crime has never been solved. Cook said law enforcement officers should be spending their time trying to find the people who shot Good instead of tamping down on charitable gambling
“I get so disgusted,” Cook said. “You need to leave lawyers and politicians and all of those other people – you need to leave them out of some things. Nobody is trying to get rich or cheat anybody out of anything. It’s an effort to have some fun and gather some people together. Along the way, we’re trying to help some people who could probably use a helping hand.”
The Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission does not enforce Kansas gambling statutes, Miskell said. That’s the role of county prosecutors and district attorneys. The commission does, however, hope to educate fundraisers so their events comply with Kansas law.
“What we try to do is work with groups one-on-one so that whatever ideas they have to raise money that the element of chance becomes a predominantly an element of skill,” Miskell said. “We work with these groups to try to come up with an alternative that removes that element of chance.”
Kansas is one of a handful of states that does not have a statutory provision to allow charitable fundraising.
A legal change would require an amendment to the state’s constitution.
“We want folks to be able to raise funds, but we want them to be able to do that in a manner in compliance with the law,” Miskell explained.
Organizations with fundraising plans can contact the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission if they have questions about a particular event.
Miskell said the commission is there to offer assistance.
Commission officials can be contacted by phone at (785)296-5800 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We will work with anybody who has a question about whether or not their event is in compliance with Kansas law,” Miskell said.