Calgary community associations are worried that an overhaul of the province’s charitable gaming revenues will results in less cash to local groups.
The Federation of Calgary Communities (FCC) and the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL) teamed up to write a letter to Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews with their concerns. They urged the minister in the Sept. 24 letter not to cut funding to community organizations in the province’s two biggest cities.
“Potential changes to the casino model and how revenue is dispersed across Alberta would significantly hurt the ability of community associations and leagues in Calgary and Edmonton to build and operate their public amenities,” the letter read.
This would in turn hurt the public infrastructure that residents in these cities depend on for physical activity, social cohesion and even childcare.
It also states that the organizations they represent have built and maintained more than $750 million in community infrastructure over the past century.
Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis began its charitable gaming review in 2019 to identify and fix potential concerns around the system. Charitable gaming is the system where licensed charitable organizations can apply to participate in casino nights, bingos, raffles and pull ticket events to collect a portion of the receipts.
Groups raise between $9,000 and $60,000, depending on the area in Alberta.
Concerns that were raised in an early survey included wait times to access events and how the cash was doled out. The province continued with public engagement early this year. A decision on what’s next is expected soon.
Don’t rip the carpet out: Leslie Evans
Leslie Evans, executive director of the FCC, said there should be some change in the system, but cutting funding for many of these groups would be devastating.
Evans said it would be the second blow to city community associations still reeling from a cut to the province’s Community Facilities Enhancement Program (CFEP). That was nearly 50 per cent.
The program was somewhat backfilled by the Civil Society Fund, which earmarked $20 million over three years. Evans said what groups qualified for that cash was broadened considerably.
“It’s the public infrastructure we’re worried about. The government has pulled all the funding; they built these organizations back in the 60s, 70s and 80s mostly and now there’s no money to lifecycle,” Evans said.
“The taxpayer, the city taxpayer, is going to end up with a whole bunch of rubble is what’s going to happen.”
With casino funds potentially reduced and the CFEP funding reduced, Evans said the biggest hit ends up being less funding from the city. That’s because most city funding is leveraged with casino and CFEP cash.
In an emailed response, the province said the AGLC has listened to the concerns of Alberta charities.
They are looking at the issues raised, and will be working to find a solution that works for both charities and the AGLC,” read a response from Kassandra Kitz, senior press secretary with Alberta’s Treasury Board and Finance.
“They will have more to say on this soon, but they remain committed to ensuring charities continue to effectively raise money through charitable gaming.
Calgarians need to care
Evans said this impacts anyone who uses city community rinks, parks and community association buildings.
She’s hoping more people will sit up and take notice.
“It’s important that Calgarians start listening and paying attention, or these amenities are going to go away and it will be impossible to recover them,” she said.