After a year spent hashing out the details of a plan allowing charitable groups to sell raffle tickets online, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed Senate Bill 4329 into law.
Also known as the Charitable Gaming Act, SB-4329 paves the way for churches, fire departments, schools, and other organizations to sell raffle tickets over the internet. In addition, the law removes restrictions which previously prevented charitable groups to accept debit and credit cards as payment.
In late 2016, Cuomo exercised his veto power to shoot down an earlier version of the bill, ruling that it violated the state’s constitutional ban on private gambling. Despite an overwhelming show of support, with the state Senate voting 59-3 in favor, and the House responding in kind with a 136-8 approval, Cuomo rejected the bill as written.
Cuomo’s objection stemmed from a provision which would’ve allowed New Yorkers residing in jurisdictions where gambling is still illegal to purchase tickets.
Following the Governor’s veto, lawmakers huddled to rework the Charitable Gaming Act, and by February of 2017, Cuomo appeared to have reversed course. In an official statement from the Governor’s office, Cuomo offered his support for the same sort of raffle ticket reforms he previously killed off:
“For too long, red tape and outdated laws on the books have inhibited the efforts of well-intentioned charities to raise crucial funds in support of their good work.
These reforms will modernize our laws, remove burdensome obstacles and allow non-profits to raise more funds from generous New Yorkers to support important causes that improve our communities, protect our environment and help save lives.”
Within days, a bipartisan trio of lawmakers came together to cosponsor a revived Charitable Gaming Act of 2017. The bill sailed through the Senate and the House in similar fashion to its predecessor, prompting Cuomo to sign it into law on December 18.
One of the bill’s cosponsors, state senator Joseph Griffo (R-47), issued a statement praising Cuomo for coming around on the issue:
“Allowing charitable organizations to accept raffle ticket purchases online or using debit and credit cards will allow fundraisers across the state to become even more successful in raising money on behalf of children, the elderly, the disabled and others in need.
This will in turn enhance their capability to support vital programs and services within the communities they serve.
I am pleased that the governor has signed this legislation that I co-sponsored and that he recognizes the importance of making it easier for charitable organizations to raise money by allowing raffle tickets to be purchased by a credit or debit card.”
The decision drew criticism from anti-gambling advocates like Stephen Shafer, chairman of the Coalition Against Gambling in New York. Speaking with The Buffalo News, Shafer offered a succinct outline of his organization’s opposition to online raffle ticket sales:
“It’s another effort to extend the reach of predatory gambling. It’s not an appropriate move.”
Among the organizations which stand to benefit from a modernized raffle industry is the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League (NHL). Like many professional sports franchises, the Sabres maintain a foundation which runs 50/50 raffles during each home game, providing patrons with an opportunity to turn a few dollars into a significant windfall.
As the game’s title suggests, 50 percent of the total proceeds are paid out to the raffle winner, while the other 50 percent is contributed to local charitable causes.
Rich Jureller, who serves as president of the Buffalo Sabres Foundation, spoke to The Buffalo News about the new law’s potential impact:
“It’s really going to create a lot of opportunities for us and any charity that wants to use new technology and new rules we have.”
It should certainly help us sell more tickets. And I’d imagine someone with $5 in cash would want to spend $10 (online).”