Banker attacks on credit union savings raffles are disappointing but show no sign of derailing the national campaign to win lawmaker support despite last week’s Iowa setback, according to a Boston-area non-profit.
The Doorways to Dreams Fund, a Roxbury agency dedicated to increasing economic security for low-income people through improved savings habits, said legislative success in Nebraska, Washington state and North Carolina trump the defeat of a bill in the Iowa legislature led by the Iowa Bankers Association.
The banking lobby had complained the prize giveaway promotions tied to savings accounts fostered a gambling mentality and unfairly undermined bank/CU competition particularly “given the tax exemption.”
“From our perspective there are some states, like Iowa, where there are long-standing political forces at work or disputes in play that simply cause the legislation to get defeated,” explained Joanna Smith-Ramani, director of strategy for Doorway to Dreams, founded in 2000 and funded by some of the nation’s largest foundations including Ford, Rockefeller and Annie E. Casey.
Smith-Ramani said the success of the Michigan Credit Union League in launching the “Save to Win” program in 2009 also underscores the benefits accrued to consumers who have for the first time opened savings accounts at some 40 CUs in that state. “Now the idea is catching on fast elsewhere,” she said.
In the Michigan program, savers can get one entry in a “Save to Win” prize pool for each $25 CD with a maximum of $250 in prize entries at 1-1.5% rates.
Outside of Iowa bankers, said Smith-Ramani, have stayed on the sidelines on “Save to Win” and prospects are good that trend will continue in 2011 as state lawmakers consider enabling bills.
She noted, however, that the legislative campaign in various states is complicated by federal law that prohibits non-CUs from operating a prize-linked raffle
“Even state-chartered banks are covered by these prohibitions, so while states can pass laws that allow for all financial institutions to offer (such) products, unless federal law changes the only financial institutions that proceed are credit unions,” she said.
Beside Iowa, only in Maryland has been there “aggressive banker opposition” to the savings raffles and though an enabling law was enacted it contains a provision requiring federal law be changed first before CUs can start offering the product, Smith-Ramani said.