Alta Casino Closures Bad News For Charities

By Ben Hamill - May 01 2021
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Alta Casino Closures Bad News For Charities

Ongoing casino closures in the province of Alberta are having a devastating impact on more than just the ability of gaming operators to pay their employees. Also suffering are the many charities and First Nations so heavily reliant on everything from working at paying casino events to gaming share allocation to non-profit organisations and municipalities.

According to a recent report released by Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis, at least 1,200 charity organisations have been severely affected by casino closures. And it’s a situation that’s been intensifying ever since casinos were first closed in December last year.

One such organisation is the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues. Since shared-profit allocations contributed by Alberta’s casinos make up around 70 per cent of local leagues’ income, many have been left with no other option but shutter their ice rinks. Casino revenue pays for everything from community sports programs to the actual maintenance of venues and rinks.

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First Nations Are Devastated

Another group severely affected by casino closures have been Alberta’s First Nations.

Following the closure of River Cree Casino last year, the Enoch Cree Nation, for one, has suffered losses to the tune of nearly CA$26 million – money the First Nation relies heavily on for supporting its members in the basic necessities of life.

There are currently five casinos operated by Indigenous communities in the province. They are: River Cree Resort & Casino (Enoch Cree Nation), Casino Dene (Cold Lake First Nation), Eagle River Casino & Travel Plaza (Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation), Calgary’s Grey Eagle Resort & Casino, and Stoney Nakoda Resort & Casino, in Morley.

The impact that casino closures have had – and continue to have – on First Nations is significant and far-reaching. And the fact that Alberta had an already-struggling economy even before the global crisis and closures hit, is obviously making matters even worse.

Resources Are Depleted

Community leagues have now turned to creative ways of generating an income in the absence of operational casinos in the province.

The Shamrock Curling Club, for example, has called on its members to exchange their refunds from the previous non-season for loyalty card. And Hairsine Community League are filing for a sustainable food grant in support of its community vegetable garden.

A hard knock for charities has been the postponement of the reopening of local businesses and casinos. Initially set to reopen towards the end of March, Minister of Health Tyler Shandro’s announcement that the time is not yet right has dealt an even further massive blow to charity groups, community centers and First Nations.

The unprecedented situation continues to hinder a return to normal operations in the province, leaving resources drained and in many cases completely depleted.

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