Senate wagers on success of lottery, bingo automation

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TOPEKA — A divided Senate signed off on a deal allowing lottery ticket vending machines in Kansas retail stores despite bipartisan consternation about the procedure used to include language in the bill authorizing comparable machines for bingo ticket transactions.

Sen. Bud Estes, a Dodge City Republican carrying House Bill 2313, said he had no problem with the American Legion or other nonprofits requesting inclusion of bingo provisions in a bill previously confined to placement of at least 300 machines in stores to market Kansas Lottery tickets.

The bingo piece was inserted by three House and three Senate negotiators and never was considered or approved by the full House or Senate. It isn’t a rule typically fudged by lawmakers because parachuting text into a bill at final stages of the process can lead legislators to vote on measures they don’t understand and raise the prospect of unintended consequences upon implementation.

“The constitution definitely spells out that these (bingo) tickets are absolutely 100-percent legal, just as they are in the lottery,” Estes said. “Because of the subject matter … I had no problem doing that.”

Sen. Barbara Bollier, a Mission Hills Republican, made a motion to send the bill back to the conference committee for removal of content tied to automated bingo sales. Her motion failed 19-16.

“I am concerned about bringing something forward that has not been completely vetted,” Bollier said. “The notion that it’s exactly identical. I would argue that it is not, because it has to do with bingo. Yes, it’s a machine, but so is a machine that dispenses Coca-Cola.”

The bill cleared the Senate on a vote of 21-16. If the House were to concur, the legislation would be sent to Gov. Sam Brownback.

Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, presided over the parliamentary skirmish on the Senate floor. She has owned several businesses, with investments that included bingo halls. She voted for the bill allowing electronic instant-win bingo tickets.

“We firmly believe that if the Kansas Lottery is allowed to sell these products through dispensing machines, that our posts should have these same rights,” said Jimmie Foster, a representative of the American Legion in Kansas.

“This provision related to bingo wasn’t even introduced in the form of a bill,” said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka. “Now, this amendment comes to us on the 94th day of the session. I believe we shouldn’t be dropping things from the sky into conference committee reports.”

Estes said skirting the ordinary committee process of examining bills and gathering public testimony was justified in this instance.

“If it would have been something totally different — changed the rules, changed the payout fees, anything — we would not have been as happy to accommodate them,” he said.

Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka, said she wasn’t convinced the bingo portion of the bill was written with sufficient care.

“The language is very, very open. There’s no restrictions on hours. You can have the bingo pull tab machine available 24-7,” she said.

In addition to automation of lottery and bingo sales, the bill would change state law to allow the Kansas Lottery to continue indefinitely. The bill would require lottery tickets purchased by a person younger than age 18 to be voided.

Revenue to the Kansas Lottery from vending machine sales would be transferred to community mental health centers under direction of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. In the upcoming fiscal year, no more than $4 million would be earmarked for that purpose, but the transfer could rise to $8 million in the four subsequent fiscal years.