Governor says state wants charitable duck races to continue on canal

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 July 2016 at 10:00 am
Erie Canal turtle race

File photo by Tom Rivers Turtles “race” in the Erie Canal in this photo from June last year in Albion. The Amazing Turtle Race usually includes about 1,000 turtles. The five fastest turtles earn their owners prize money. The race is a fund-raiser with proceeds going towards the annual Albion Strawberry Festival.

Dumping turtles in the canal for Strawberry Festival

Turtles are dumped in the Erie Canal in Albion in this photo from June 2015. Pictured from left include: County Legislators John DeFilipps and Lynne Johnson, Jarred Saj (the top turtle ticket seller with 206), Village Trustee Stan Farone is next to Saj but obscured in this photo, The Turtle, Michael Bonnewell, then Sheriff Scott Hess and Strawberry Festival King Chase Froman.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today that the state wants to support fund-raising traditions with plastic and rubber ducks and turtles, where organizations hold races to generate funds for community festivals and projects.

The Erie Canal is a popular venue for such races, including “The Amazing Turtle Race” during the Albion Strawberry Festival the second Saturday in June.

Some organizations have cancelled the races after being told the events are not allowed because they involve gambling on state property. Brockport cancelled its recent duck race because of the issue.

Cuomo is in Niagara County today to announce a new hotel project in Niagara Falls. He also put out a news release that the duck race put on Community Missions of Niagara Frontier could go on as planned.

“Each year, Community Missions’ charitable duck race raises thousands of dollars to support the organization’s important work for the city’s most vulnerable populations,” Cuomo said in a statement today. “After discussions with the New York State Gaming Commission, we’ve determined a lawful pathway for this popular event to take place on the Erie Canal this year and in the years ahead. The Commission has reached out to city officials and Community Missions to ensure the proper steps are taken so that the raffle may be legally conducted.”

The duck race will be Saturday, July 23, at Canal Fest.

Cuomo said other organizations holding similar races as fund-raisers on the canal will be contacted by the state and given the rules for compliance.

“I have requested that the Commission proactively contact similarly situated Western New York charitable organizations seeking to hold fundraisers on the Canal to advise them on how they too can proceed legally to raise funds,” Cuomo said. “I am pleased that with this administrative fix, these important traditions will be able to continue for the entire Western New York community.”

Cuomo, in his news release today, advised how organizations can operate the fund-raisers legally. He used Community Missions as an example.

Technical Details of How Organizations Can Hold Legal Duck Races on Erie Canal:

Community Missions of Niagara Frontier Inc. can conduct their event, so long as appropriate laws and regulations are followed.

Because Community Missions is domiciled in Niagara Falls and the intended raffle is to occur in North Tonawanda, a variety of procedural approvals must be sought and given:

1. Community Missions must obtain consent from North Tonawanda to conduct the raffle in its jurisdiction by seeking a hardship exemption pursuant to 9E NYCRR § 4603.11(a)(1) and file a Verified Statement for Raffle Ticket Operations (GCVS1) (if a Category 2 raffle).

2. North Tonawanda must identify the Canal as the premises for the conduct of the raffle.

3. North Tonawanda and the Commission must accept the Letter of Consent.

4. Upon acceptance, the Commission will issue a temporary Games of Chance Identification Number to be used for the conduct of the event.

5. If desired, Community Missions must obtain consent to sell raffle tickets in jurisdictions beyond Niagara Falls (where they are domiciled). These are obtained through the Filing of a Raffle Consent Form (GC-RCF) with every municipality where the raffle tickets are to be sold.