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The Buffalo Sabres Change Cuomo’s Mind On Online Raffles

Buffalo Sabres jersey encased in ice
A little over a year ago, Gov. Andrew Cuomo celebrated National Giving Day by vetoing a bill designed to help charities.

Shortly before Christmas, Cuomo had a change of heart. He signed the bill into law. In six months, the law takes effect, allowing charity groups to sell raffle tickets online.

Law allows for online, credit card raffle purchases

The Charitable Giving Act of 2017 explicitly allows for online raffles for charitable causes. A large part of the reason the bill happened is because charities want to take advantage of credit card donations.

However, many critics dislike the idea of using a credit card to gamble online. Some of the more ardent opponents fear this makes the online gaming laws in New York too lax.

One of the more outspoken critics is Manhattan Sen. Liz Krueger. She sounded all the alarm bells about this to the Buffalo Times.

“They’ll give (the charities) pennies on the dollar and massively expand online gambling in the state of New York…Online gambling is far, far more addictive than other forms of gambling and there are all kinds of research showing that people programming apps and computer gaming are actually successfully modeling gambling addiction … The danger of this kind of gambling is very real and should be looked at very seriously before government is endorsing or supporting the expansion.”

It is worth noting Krueger was one of only four senators who voted against the measure back in June.

Cuomo’s office did not explain his change of heart. When he vetoed the bill in 2016, the party line was there were concerns about the constitutionality of the bill. The fear was by allowing online sales, it illegally allowed gambling activity in municipalities where no such activity is sanctioned.

Charity groups thrilled at revenue opportunity

Unlike other bills, which typically have a lawmaker at the helm pushing it through, this bill largely came to be because of the Buffalo Sabres. That is right, the NHL hockey team.

The team’s philanthropy arm, Buffalo Sabres Foundation, was running a raffle which allowed hockey viewers at home to buy online tickets and participate. They had to stop the promotion when local law enforcement intervened. Unfortunately, it was basically the most successful fundraiser the foundation was running.

The Stafford Volunteer Fire Department has a similar story. After law enforcement shut down its online raffle, the community actually had to raise taxes in order to cover the difference.

There are some limits to the new online raffle laws

While the new law is great news for charity organizations, there are still some things to iron out. The New York Gaming Commission will clarify some things in the six months before the law goes into effect.

The biggest area of confusion is who these groups can sell tickets to under the new guidelines. All seem to agree the raffles cannot be statewide. However, which counties are eligible to sell to is much murkier.

The Sabres, for example, think they can sell to several nearby counties. Others think those adjoining counties and municipalities would still need to okay the raffle sales before the charities are in the legal clear. Thankfully there is time to set specific guidelines before the online raffles start up again.

Photo by meunierd /

Jessica Welman


Jessica Welman is a longtime member of the poker media. She has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the Managing Editor for A graduate of the University of Southern California and Indiana University, Welman is not only a writer but also a producer. She has been involved for livestreams for the WSOP and WPT and worked as a consultant on many other poker productions. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.