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Odds stacked against Calgary community associations in absence of casino funds

Calgary’s community associations are taking a financial hit because Albertans weren’t able to… gamble.

COVID-19 had shut down normal operations at businesses around the city, including local casinos.

Community associations rely heavily on the money they get from participating in fundraisers and events at city casinos.

These community associations supply volunteers to staff events at local casinos. In return, the associations receive a cut of the night’s house take. That could mean a loss of up to $70,000 per event.

These casino events are scheduled up to two years in advance, missing one could make it hard to keep the lights on for some of these associations.

Community Associations might go under

This is the case for the Crossroads Community Association.

COVID-19 forced the cancellation of their April casino night. That’s caused treasurer Ricardo Cosentino to worry about their future.

“It’s been difficult, we don’t have a lot of money. I think we’re in kind of the worst position for this because we were due for our casino in April,” he said.

“The payout for our casino would be in August, and that’s not happening. So we have to stretch, make it go further. And we don’t know when this is coming back.”

When COVID-19 health restrictions relax, allowing Calgarians to hit the tables again, Cosentino said it wouldn’t be the same payout even if the association were to attend.

“We’re hoping that we’re going to get a casino soon, and then we’ll get paid by the end of the year. But we have to obviously budget,” he said.

“It’s also going to be less money because there’s going be fewer people going to the casinos so it’s been challenging on that front.”

The financial cavalry is on the way

There is hope for financial support for some community association. On May 11, the city of Calgary approved $6 million in relief funding to support community associations and social recreation groups.

The money was to support non-negotiable operating costs like rent, utilities, and building maintenance. Additionally, on June 29, The Government of Alberta rolled out its Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant.

This $200 million provincial grant helps businesses, cooperatives, and non-profit organizations that had to close. They can recover up to 15 percent of their pre-COVID-19 revenue, topping off at $5,000.

The future is uncertain for Calgary Community Associations

Community associations might have some hope for a casino payout following the province’s June 30, Alberta Relaunch strategy update.

Alberta’s Stage 2 allowed for casinos and bingo halls to open, but without table games. There’s also no cap now on the number of people in casinos, as long as health measures are in place.

For Leslie Evans, the Executive Director for the Federation of Calgary Communities, this update is a step in the right direction.

Still, she said some of her communities might not last past spring next year.

“I guess optimistically, I think my groups can weather the storm until the spring. I think people are finding ways to be creative and be in good shape by leveraging the grants given to us,” she said.

Still, Evans said that until casino operations return to normal and CAs are able to get the full charity take, finances will be tenuous, at best.

“Community association are social gathering places, so as long as people are physically distancing, or we’re doing things virtually. Those with buildings will sit vacant, and the cost of running the buildings will exceed what they can charge for rent,” she said.

“So, the worst-case scenario I’m worried. For 24 months, no organization, no business could last that long without proper funding for revenue loss.”