BATAVIA — It seems likely too late for the Stafford Fire Department to resurrect a Father’s Day Corvette Raffle for 2017.
But the legislative push brought on by the 2016 raffle’s cancellation is finally heading to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk.
Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, announced Thursday that Cuomo will now have 10 days to sign or veto the Charitable Gaming Act of 2016. The measure would allow raffles to accept cash, credit and debit payments for charitable auctions and games, along with allowing purchases toward raffles to be made online.
Such raffles are popular — and vital — fundraisers hosted by fire departments, churches and non-profit organizations. In Stafford, Fire Department Trustee Stanley Gere said the state’s shutting down of the annual raffle — in response to a raffle participant’s complaint using a strict reading of decades-old regulations — led directly to difficulties for both the fire department and the residents it serves.
“It’s already made a big impact,” Gere said, “because the town had only to give to the fire department for fire coverage and EMT service ... and looking at our core, it’s close to $300,000 (needed to fund the services). We had to go to the town to request that money. That’s a huge impact for the people in Stafford to have to pick up.”
The fire department was less than a month away from its raffle taking place when it was cancelled. The 1965 Corvette they purchased had to be quickly sold, and more than $300,000 in tickets were refunded.
Hawley said the Charitable Gaming Act, passed in May amid the final flurry of legislation in the 2016 session, replaces archaic restrictions on community organizations.
The Stafford cancellation was followed by a slew of similar actions in other municipalities, after pre-Internet laws showed them to be operating illegally but without ill intentions.
Raffles of classic cars, motorcycles and other high-end items through online and non-cash ticket purchases bought emergency vehicles for fire departments, plugged leaky roofs for veteran’s clubs and aided charitable outreach by social organizations.
“I am excited that the ‘Charitable Gaming Act’ has finally hit the governor’s desk and is awaiting his approval,” Hawley said. “I worked diligently with colleagues in both houses to pass this legislation, and it is crucial for fire departments, non-profits and other charities that hold raffles and games to revise these archaic and outdated requirements, which hamper their ability to give back to the local community.”
In Stafford, the car committee greeted their bill reaching the governor with relief.
They looked at the five-month wait for action, and Cuomo’s rapid response to another gaming law technicially, one impacting rubber duck race fundraisers held off the premises of host organizations, as unfair.
Gere said he and the other car committee members will start looking for another classic Corvette once the law is settled. They like to have “the right car” secured by Labor Day, and have tickets and fliers in the mail by Dec. 1.
“We probably don’t have time to get it all together for next year, but by (2018) we will have our ducks in a row,” Gere said. “And it will be Corvette.”
The bill was ushered through the Assembly by Hawley, along with assemblymen Robin Schimminger, D-Buffalo, and Gary Pretlow, D-Mount Vernon. State Sen. Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, sponsored in the bill in the Senate, with support from Republican state senators Michael Ranzenhofer and Robert Ortt.
“We’re very proud to be sponsors and to have shepherded this through the Senate,” Ranzenhofer said, “so that organizations can continue to sustain themselves through long-established events that have no negatives to doing them.”
Ranzenhofer said he has already spoken with Cuomo about the local impact the “common sense” law would have.
Hawley urged supporters of local charities and organizations to resume the lobbying campaign that helped push the bill through the legislature.