Governor Cuomo proposes new rules for charitable gaming

First public hearing on modernizing New York’s charitable gaming laws is set for March 20 in Albany

The state’s Gaming Commission will hold the first in a series of public hearings aimed at giving charitable organizations a forum to address new regulations that would make fundraising through legal gaming easier.

The goal of the hearing — scheduled for 5 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel on Wolf Road, on Monday March 20 — is to identify ways to help charitable organizations such as churches, clubs and schools raise more funds through legal gaming as four new casinos are in the process of opening across New York.

Just last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a series of proposed rule changes that would “modernize” the state laws that regulate fundraising through “casino nights,” bingo, raffles and other forms of gambling. The Governor’s Office says the proposals — part of the 2017-2018 Executive Budget, will help hundreds, if not thousands, of organizations to be able to raise funds easier.

The nonprofits and charities affected under the rule changes could include groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion of Disabled American Veterans, the Loyal Order of Moose, Fraternal Order of Eagles, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, churches, volunteer fire departments, and many other nonprofit organizations across the state.

Cuomo’s new measures would overhaul many of the old-fashioned and sometimes archaic charitable gambling laws, which would give organizations much more flexibility and remove much of the unnecessary bureaucracy in the way of fundraising via charitable gambling.

“For too long, red tape and outdated laws on the books have inhibited the efforts of well-intentioned charities to raise crucial funds in support of their good work,” Cuomo said. “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.”

The new proposal combines and eliminates several charitable gaming statutes from multiple sections of law. The new proposal covers multiple aspects of charitable gambling law including:

• Allowing charitable organizations to sell raffle tickets and conduct games of chance through the use of checks, credit and debit cards,

• Permitting charitable organizations to conduct games in additional locations (beyond their own, municipal-owned or other nonprofit-owned properties) and make it easier for organizations to get approval for off-site games,

• Reducing the number of years that a charitable organization must be in existence from three  to one in order to conduct games of chance, in line with the current requirement for bingo operators,

• Moving charitable gaming forms and applications online to minimize paperwork for  charitable organizations and municipalities,

• Lessening restrictions on charitable gaming advertising to include online and off-premise ads,

• Formally permitting charitable organizations to conduct gaming on Sundays and remove restricted hours for certain games,

• Increasing the prize limitations for bell jar games from $500 to $1,000 and bingo from $1,000 to $5,000,

• Eliminating one of three categories of raffles, thereby simplifying compliance for charitable organizations,

• Permitting alcoholic beverages to be included as prizes for charitable gaming, and

• Providing flexibility for fee-setting by transferring such provisions from statute to the Gaming Commission regulations.

The Governor’s Office said it is open to the possibility of making additional changes and will be conducting more hearings in the coming months as a way for charities and churches to provide input.

These changes are being proposed as four new casinos have either opened, or are in the final phases of construction – one each in the Catskills, the Capital Region, Central New York and the Southern Tier. The new casinos were approved by voters in a ballot referendum in November 2013.

The March 20 hearing in Albany is open to the public and the press. More hearings in regions across the state will be announced in the near future.