Fundraising innovation: Less risk in games of chance

Raffle rules: Gov. Andrew Cuomo's FY2018 Executive Budget eases restrictions on charity fundraising through games of chance.
By SEAN WILKINSON, CPA //

Governor Andrew Cuomo proposes to remove the red tape restricting nonprofit organizations’ fundraising efforts through raffles and other games of chance.

The FY2018 Executive Budget will update outdated bureaucratic laws that will increase the potential of charitable organizations searching for support. Organizations that depend on these revenue-generating streams will benefit tremendously in the years to come.

Sean Wilkinson: Game on, governor.

For example, the American Legion, a veteran’s organization, currently raises money by selling pull-tabs, operating bingo games and selling virtual racing tickets for virtual horses, cars or dogs. Funds raised are donated toward a variety of programs such as veterans’ programs, Girl Scouts, sponsored youth events and more.

Governor Cuomo’s proposed deregulations include allowing charitable organizations to sell raffle tickets and conduct games of chance through use of checks, credit and debit cards. These easy transactions will allow more people to interact with the charitable organizations during their fundraising events.

Also on the list are new rules permitting charitable organizations to conduct games in additional locations – beyond their own properties, municipal-owned properties or properties owned by other charitable organizations – and to make it easier for organizations to get approval for off-site games. This will extend the popularity of charitable organizations and promote their fundraising activities at more convenient locations that benefit the event and the interaction of people.

The governor has also proposed to reduce 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.

Other proposed deregulation moves include:

  • Online charitable gaming forms and applications, to minimize paperwork for fundraising organizations and municipalities.
  • Fewer restrictions on charitable-gaming advertising, allowing for online and off-premise ads. Promoting events for important causes will help organizations fundraise more efficiently and effectively.
  • Formal permission for charitable organizations to conduct gaming on Sundays and the removal of time-of-day restrictions for certain games.
  • Increasing the prize limitations for bell-jar from $500 to $1,000 (maximum aggregate prizes from $3,000 to $6,000) and bingo from $1,000 to $5,000 (maximum aggregate prizes from $3,000 to $15,000).
  • The elimination of one of three state-recognized categories of raffles, a consolidation move meant to simplify compliance for charitable organizations.
  • The permitting of alcoholic beverages to be included as prizes for charitable gaming.
  • Flexibility for fee-setting by transferring such provisions from statute to Gaming Commission regulations.

It’s an exciting time when the government makes life easier for those who serve the nonprofit sector. Reducing the gaming paperwork and restrictions ultimately increases the good-intentioned efforts of those who shape our communities.

This is a great step forward for charitable organizations looking to make a difference in the world each and every day. Cerini & Associates will continue to monitor the New York State Gaming Commission’s public hearings over the next few months.

Mr. Wilkinson is an audit manager at Bohemia-based accounting firm Cerini & Associates LLP.


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