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Release the ducks! Cuomo announces expedited approvals to allow Community Missions charitable duck race to proceed on Erie Canal

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Tue, Jul 12th 2016 05:00 pm
Community Missions' Don Luce and Andrea Gray cheer on their ducks. Community Missions will hold its annual duck race at the Canal Fest of the Tonawandas at 3 p.m. Saturday, July 23. (Photo by Joshua Maloni)
Community Missions' Don Luce and Andrea Gray cheer on their ducks. Community Missions will hold its annual duck race at the Canal Fest of the Tonawandas at 3 p.m. Saturday, July 23. (Photo by Joshua Maloni)

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today announced Community Missions of Niagara Frontier Inc.'s annual duck race for charity can proceed this year at Canal Fest.

The time-honored tradition came to a halt earlier this month when Community Missions discovered the fundraiser possibly flouted state law by not obtaining certain approvals.

Cuomo has taken action to ensure the charity event continues for the Western New York community, and has engaged the New York State Gaming Commission on expediting any and all approvals needed for Community Missions to move forward with this year's duck race.

"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. "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."

Cuomo continued, "Additionally, 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. I am pleased that, with this administrative fix, these important traditions will be able to continue for the entire Western New York community."

"We are thrilled that Gov. Cuomo reached out to help us cut through the red tape to allow Community Missions to hold our fun, favorite fundraiser," Community Missions Executive Director Robyn Krueger said. "By expediting the application process to use a state waterway, the duck race can commence on Saturday, July 23, at Canal Fest, which helps support our mission of serving individuals and families in need.

"We've provided compassion in action to those in need in Niagara County since 1925. With Gov. Cuomo's help, our wide range of services will continue."

Community Missions has been holding the annual duck race for decades to raise money for the services it provides. Individuals and organizations can buy plastic ducks, which then float down the canal. The sponsors of the winning ducks receive a prize.

Ducks may be purchased online at www.communitymissions.org through Friday, July 15, or in person at Community Missions' tent on Renaissance Bridge (corner of Webster and Sweeney streets) throughout the weeklong Canal Fest. A single duck costs $5; a "Quack Pack" of six ducks costs $25; a "Quackers Dozen" of 13 ducks costs $50; while a "Flock" of 30 ducks costs $100. This year's sponsors include Fallon Health, J.A. Brundage and LocalEdge, while other sponsorship opportunities do still exist.

Since its founding in 1925, Community Missions has provided a unique blend of referral, crisis, community support and residential services for youth and adults. In 2015, CMI provided over 86,000 meals and 10,000 nights of care to neglected or abused children and homeless adults. Additional agency programs serve adults and youth with psychiatric disabilities, parolees, at-risk youth and other underserved populations in both residential and recovery-oriented settings. For more information, visit www.communitymissions.org.

New York State Sen. Rob Ortt today thanked the governor and local organizations for their efforts to preserve the traditions and benefits of events like charitable duck derby races. Ortt recently introduced legislation that would allow games of chance, including raffles, to be conducted on state-owned property.

"I applaud the governor for listening to local officials and organizations on this important issue," Ortt said. "This was an example of an antiquated and illogical law that had been on the books for years but was scarcely enforced. Events like the duck derbies were raising money for good causes, not malice, and organizations were about to suddenly be penalized for that solely because those events are being held on state property. I'm thankful that a commitment to common sense and charity won the day."

Ortt, along with local officials, reacted to the cancellation of a duck derby fundraiser in Brockport after state gaming commission officials said it violated gaming laws and regulations. The derby, which has been a summer staple for the Brockport Arts Festival for years, consists of raffled toy ducks floating down the Erie Canal, which is state property.

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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.

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