14 January 2012

Gaming Grant News Release

This is a news release from Eliza Olson, who was described in a post on this very blog just last week.  Eliza is the President and Volunteer Executive Director of the Burns Bog Conservation Society.  This news release was done in response to the recent news conference and press release from the Provincial Government of BC on gaming revenues available for non-profit groups and charities.

From Eliza's Desk: Community Gaming Grant Review Report fails to answer key questions.

DELTA, BC, Jan 12, 2012

It’s unfortunate that the Premier’s Press Conference didn’t give more comfort to non-profits. The government using the argument that it is in debt and can’t give the non-profits their due implies that the government is building retractable roofs and highways at the expense of the non-profits and the people that depend on those services.

I am very disappointed that the Community Gaming Grant Review Report did not address the issue of whether or not the 1999 Memorandum of Agreement, signed between the Province of BC and the BC Association for Charitable Gaming, is legally binding or not. This memorandum clearly states that charities are to receive one third of gaming income.

Originally a judge was going to be appointed to oversee this review. I see why Premier Clark changed her mind. A judge would’ve had the expertise to determine if this memorandum was binding. Instead Skip Triplett former President of Kwantlen Polytechnic University was selected. By his own admission Mr. Triplett did not have the expertise to rule on whether this hugely important memorandum applied or not. And then the government failed to give him someone with that expertise to help.

Given his lack of a legal background, I think Skip Triplett did an admirable job. Apart from the reinstatement of environmental groups, animal welfare groups, and adult arts and sports, there is very little new in the Premier’s announcement.

The recent government releases state that $135.0 million of the $1.10 billion total net government gaming revenues has been allocated to non-profit community organizations. This distribution violates the standing agreement from 1999.

The money earmarked for non-profit community organizations equals 12.27% of the net gaming income for the province, a far cry from the 33.3% promised in the 1999 Memorandum which states:  "...ensures charity entitlement to an amount, after accounting for retained bingo revenues, equal to 1/3 of ongoing government net community gaming revenue;".

Now the good part of reinstating these organizations' eligibility for funding is that they will be able to carry out their work more effectively. The challenge is that there are now more organizations applying for funding from the same size of pot.

Non-profit community organizations should be entitled to $366.3 million. Non-profits are having $231.3 million dollars stolen from them that is rightfully theirs. Then they're told that they're better off.  It doesn’t make sense.

It reminds me of something I've heard when you talk about whole wheat flour and "enriched" flour. All enriched means is that nutrients were removed during processing and later some were added back in. This is like someone stealing twenty dollars from your pocket, feeling bad, returning ten, and then telling you that you're enriched.

Even if you use the argument that the Memorandum of Agreement only applies to revenues from casinos and community gaming operations like bingo, the $135 million for non-profits comes up short.  It is only 16.6% and not the promised 33.3% of the $815.6 million realized from these specific gambling operations.

It's also unclear to me why the Premier designated $8 million of the $135 million directly towards the reinstated organizations. Does this mean that they will be receiving more funding individually or will it prevent them from receiving an equal share of the remaining money?

I agree that extending support to non-profits in the Interior of British Columbia is important.  But I really worry that the increased number of charities eligible without increased funding will result in charities getting less money and a lot more stress.  

So now we've got more good organizations competing for the same pot of money. Everyone gets less than they have in the past and likely less than they've counted on. Services in the Lower Mainland could be left struggling to maintain their programs.

Eliza Olson
President and Volunteer Executive Director

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