WHEREAS there is a great need for charitable organizations in Alberta to raise funds to maintain and expand their operations for the good of all Albertans; and
WHEREAS there is a large disparity between the frequency and quality of funding opportunities available to rural charitable organizations compared with charitable organizations in major urban communities; and
WHEREAS the challenges of rural charitable organizations regarding access to casinos and the distribution of proceeds from casinos have been under formal review since at least 2009 with limited progress; and
WHEREAS in 2017, the membership of Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) approved a resolution directing RMA to establish an advisory committee to provide recommendations for reforming Alberta’s charitable gaming model so that funding is more equitably distributed among rural and urban charitable organizations; and
WHEREAS in 2019, the RMA advisory committee submitted their report and recommendations, which were endorsed by the RMA Board of Directors, to the Government of Alberta; and
WHEREAS in 2019, the Government of Alberta undertook a new round of engagement on the charitable gaming model; and
WHEREAS the Government of Alberta has still not released any recommendations for changes to the model based on the engagement process or on the input provided by the RMA;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta advocate to the Government of Alberta and Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis to reform Alberta’s charitable gaming model to provide equity to all charitable organizations in Alberta, by addressing the disparity between the funding provided, and the frequency of casino opportunities available to charitable organizations in major urban centers compared with those in rural communities.
Alberta’s nineteen casinos are divided into ten regions for the purposes of charitable gaming. Organizations across the province are assigned to a casino in closest proximity to their location. Because charitable organizations are not distributed equally across the province, some regions host many more charitable organizations than others. For charitable organizations, this results in unequal wait times between casino events among charitable organizations in different regions. As charitable organizations only receive revenue when they “work” a casino, an inequity exists related to how often charitable organizations in various areas of the province have this revenue-generating opportunity.
The following table outlines the wait times and revenues each casino region received in 2019.
|Casino Region||2019 Wait Time for Key Events (Months)||2019 Annualized Return (product of wait times and proceeds)|
While waiting period is a critical aspect of equitability in the casino gaming system, it tells only half the story. The per-event revenue generated varies widely among regions as well. Some casinos are more popular than others, and this is reflected in how much money is raised at casino events in various regions. Casinos within Edmonton and Calgary generate significantly more revenue on a per event basis than those elsewhere in the province.
Both waiting period and per event proceeds tell a partial story of how casino proceeds vary by region. However, to understand the full scope of how regions compare to one another, these measures must be combined. To do this, the AGLC uses “annualized proceeds,” which are a calculation of the estimated proceeds per year that an organization within a region would receive. This measure is effective as it combines the waiting period and the proceeds per event into a single factor. It is important to note that annualized proceeds is a hypothetical measure. It looks at how much money a charity would receive in a single year within their region if proceeds were distributed in this manner. It is important to note that proceeds are not actually distributed in this way. In reality, organizations receive the average per event proceeds from the quarter in which they volunteered at a casino event. Using annualized proceeds, there is a significant gap between the high-revenue Edmonton and Calgary regions, and the other regions in the province.
RMA and other stakeholders have previously proposed changes to the charitable gaming model to lessen the impacts of these regional differences which would result in charitable organizations across the province receiving a more similar level of financial benefit for the same amount of volunteer work. To this point, the Government of Alberta has not been receptive to making changes to the current boundaries and distribution of revenues across the province. This resolution would direct RMA to continue to advocate for change on this issue.
In 2019, RMA released the final report of its charitable gaming committee, which included a series of principles that should guide the development of a more equitable charitable as well as several specific recommendations as to how the model should be reformed. Later in 2019, AGLC conducted a stakeholder review of the model, which included participation by RMA. Unfortunately, the AGLC’s “what we heard” report from the engagement did not indicate serious consideration of any of RMA’s recommendations or other potential approaches to create a more equitable model.
Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction
Alberta’s government recognizes that charitable organizations play a vital role in the health of our communities. We also recognize the importance of charitable efforts in supporting Albertans, and we remain committed to supporting charitable organizations in their missions.
I appreciate the RMA’s views on casino opportunities for charitable organizations, and I am pleased to share that AGLC was able to use feedback received during the 2021 Charitable Gaming Review to support a number of amendments to the Charitable Gaming Policies Handbook. These changes focus on increasing flexibility in the use of gaming proceeds and reducing unnecessary financial reporting requirements for charitable organizations across the province. Some specific examples include:
Ultimately, these changes reduce the time and resources dedicated to administration so charitable organizations can redirect their resources to the delivery of the programs and services that benefit Albertans.
Two further changes with significant anticipated impacts were increases to the timeframe for charities to spend gaming proceeds (from 24 to 36 months), and increases to the amount of gaming proceeds charities can request to retain (from $75,000 to $100,000). Allowing charitable organizations to retain more funds for longer periods of time enables them to budget more sustainably and ensure they can offer their important programs and services well into the future.
Our government takes pride in offering and continuing to support one of the most generous charitable gaming models in Canada. To that end, I will continue to work with AGLC to monitor charitable gaming policies to reduce red tape where appropriate, as well as to identify emerging opportunities to support the long-term sustainability of Alberta’s charitable organizations, including those in rural municipalities.
The Government of Alberta (GOA) response references changes made to the charitable gaming model in 2021. While the changes may have modest benefits to all charitable organizations in slightly reducing administrative tasks associated with volunteering at casinos, it made no changes to how casino proceeds are distributed across the province’s gaming regions or other changes to lessen the revenue gap that exists between Edmonton- and Calgary-based charitable organizations and those elsewhere in the province.
In 2018, RMA released a report with an analysis of the charitable gaming revenue gap and a series of common-sense recommendations that would increase the benefit of casino events for rural charities while having a minimal impact on those in Edmonton and Calgary. Those recommendations were as follows:
Recommendation 1: Pool a portion of the revenues generated in each region and distribute equally to all regions
Pooling 20% of revenues generated in each casino region and sharing them equally among all regions is a first step towards equality. This approach will not require fundamental changes to the current model and will significantly reduce the current revenue gap among regions.
Recommendation 2: Address inequities associated with the model
Revising the current travel and expense policies will reduce unfair costs that rural organizations incur to volunteer at casinos in comparison to organizations located near casinos. This and other minor changes will not disrupt the model but will help address inequities associated with it.
Recommendation 3: Stakeholders, including the AGLC, RMA and AUMA, should take a collaborative approach to improving the current gaming model
An inequitable structure disadvantages some organizations and advantages others. Previous consultations have resulted in entrenched positions in which those disadvantaged by the current model call for change and those advantaged call for the status quo. For meaningful improvements to be made, all stakeholders must acknowledge that the current system is not equal, and the model can be improved to better support organizations in all areas of the province.
Recommendation 4: Regularly Review the Model and Proceed Towards Equality
Over the past several decades, review of the model has been inconsistent, as has government willingness to adopt changes recommended through the review process. The Government of Alberta must commit to regularly reviewing the model (preferably every five years) and striving to move the system closer to complete equality each time until it is achieved.
RMA submitted the report to the GOA in 2018 and did not receive a response. RMA also used the recommendations as the basis for their participation in the 2021 engagement on the gaming model, but none of the recommendations were included or even informed the modest changes to the model that came from the review process. Unlike some groups that have called for the complete elimination of gaming regions or a “ground up” redevelopment of the model, RMA’s recommendations are relatively minor, would cause little to no operational impacts to AGLC or charitable organizations, and would make a meaningful difference to charitable organizations across Alberta. Despite this, the GOA continues to ignore the need to have a serious discussion about the impacts of the model’s inequities on rural charitable organizations and what common-sense solutions (such as those in the RMA report) could be implemented.
RMA assigns this resolution a status of Intent Not Met and will continue to advocate on this issue.