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No In-person Gaming Harms Alberta Charities, First Nations

Alberta’s gaming industry has not been the only one suffering from the closing down and the current non-operational casino status. Many local charity groups and First Nations are experiencing the negative effects from no working land-based casinos since they usually are heavily dependent on the gambling funds, thus their finances are rapidly draining.

In normal circumstances, casino-organized events can provide a significant amount of revenue to the charities in the province. During these events, many local groups such as sports teams, veterans, non-profit, and community leagues offer their labor for a portion of casino revenue. Back in 2019, the numbers that charities and casinos were able to generate was around CA$168 million.

Major Impact

The Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis has informed that over 1,200 charity organizations have been severely struck by the closing of casino properties in December last year. Recently, Laura Cunningham-Shpeley, executive director of Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, has opened up on the matter. She explained how lack of casino funding has been a huge hit for the leagues.

President and casino director of Hairsine Community League Les Barker stated that his league has lost out on CA$70,000 since its casino event was delayed. Usually, casinos’ financial injections to leagues accumulate to 70% of their revenue which is used to pay for sports programs and maintenance of ice rinks. The lack of funds led to many leagues not reopening their ice rinks.

First Nations have also been directly affected by the suspension of casinos in the province. Chief Billy Morin has informed that Enoch Cree Nation has suffered losses of almost CA$26 million as River Cree Casino was closed for three months in 2020. Laurel Wheeler, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Alberta stated that lots of Indigenous communities rely on the funds and it will take time for them to adapt.

While Community groups and leagues are patiently waiting for the relaunch of casino properties, they have started alternative ways of fundraising. The Shamrock Curling Club has requested its members to relinquish their refunds from the previous season in exchange for loyalty cards. Hairsine Community League has acquired a grant from the Edmonton Oiler Community Foundation and it is filing for a sustainable food grant for its community garden.

Delayed Restart

The restart of Albertan businesses and casino facilities, in particular, was scheduled for the end of March, however, the relaunch of operations was put on hold. Minister of Health Tyler Shandro has announced that people will have to wait a little bit more for the reopening as now is not the appropriate time. This was a major upset for the charity groups which were hopeful to see the restart of the fundraising casino events.

Many individuals are excited about the possibility of the imminent business restart, however, there are also some who reckon that it is too early. Many residents stated that the unprecedented situation is far from resolved, and the government’s decision to move into Stage 3 of the economic restart comes too soon. To their delight that did not happen and the province is still on lock.

Source: Cummings, Madeleine “How casino closures are draining the resources of Alberta charities and First Nations”, CBC, April 26, 2021