Are the cards stacked against smaller communities when it comes to the distribution of Casino gaming funds in B.C.?
Ladysmith Coun. Duck Paterson thinks so.
Noting that no gaming grant funds for capital projects – like playgrounds, or spaces used by volunteer organizations – have been available to communities for at least four years, Paterson said smaller communities especially aren’t getting a fair shake.
While communities where casinos are built rake in millions as their gaming cut, volunteer organizations that could once access ‘major capital’ grant money up to $100,000 for projects like playgrounds and improvements to public facilities and spaces, have been cut out.
The BC Lottery Corporation distributed $95.8 million dollars in 2014-15 to the 31 communities that host casinos.
It also paid:
• $829.1 million to the Province for public services;
• $147.2 million to the Province’s Health Special Account for health care, research, education and promotion of health issues;
• $134.8 million to 5,000 charities and community organizations for programs and initiatives in arts and culture, sports, public safety, environment, and human and social services programs.
The BCLC web site adds that “89 cents of every dollar gambled goes back into B.C.”:
• 43 per cent to provincial and community programs;
• 23 per cent as prizes to winners;
• and another 23 per cent in commissions and fees to ‘4,000 gambling retailers and service providers.’
The remaining 11 per cent goes to operating expenses and federal taxes.
That’s great, Paterson said. He doesn’t begrudge the host communities or the province the big bucks they receive, and he’s grateful for the program funding communities get for sports, culture and community programs. A list of 15 Ladysmith organizations received $271,510 in 2014-15 according to the BCLC.
But he wants to know why volunteer and non-profit organizations are no longer able to apply for major capital grants when many of them struggle to find money for worth-while community projects – municipalities, except those that host casinos, do not receive a direct share of gaming revenues and cannot apply for major capital grants.
Municipalities that do have casinos receive 8 per cent of gambling revenues, and the BCLC ‘Play it Forward’ promotion celebrates “30 years of contributing to BC’s future.” Featured are the big, glitzy projects that have been funded through the host communities’ gaming take. For example:
• Richmond got $50 million in gaming funds to build its ‘iconic’ Olympic Oval then convert it into a community and sports facility after the 2010 Olympics.
• Coquitlam built its Burke Mountain Fire Hall with the help of ‘some of its share of provincial gaming revenue’ and by designating $10.6 million to be disbursed ‘over the next several years.’
• Closer to home, Nanaimo has benefited from casino funding to the tune of at least $43 million since 1999, with some of its take generated by casino patrons drawn from surrounding communities like Ladysmith.
But the pittance of the gaming project-funding bonanza that was available to non-casino communities through the ‘major capital’ grants has been cut off. Ministry of Finance Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch web site has a note in its table of grant categories saying “Major capital project grants” to eligible non-profit community organizations “are not available until further notice.”
“The small towns are not receiving any benefit whatsoever of money going from their communities into those casinos,” Paterson said. “You have volunteers all over the province, who can’t get access to those funds for projects.”
Ladysmith Council directed staff to look into the issue and come back with a resolution to present to the Association of Vancouver Island Municipalities, which will be holding its AGM April 8-10 in Nanaimo.