Today several members of our Vancouver Not Vegas! Coalition are speaking to Vancouver City Council on the topic of general gaming expansion in the City of Vancouver. The opportunity to speak to Council has come as a result of a motion by Councillor Ellen Woodsworth, calling for further examination of gaming practices in British Columbia before the City of Vancouver proceeds with allowing further gaming expansion within its jurisdiction.
Our coalition is speaking in support of Councillor Woodsworth’s motion.
For presentations by Amir Alibhai, Sean Bickerton and Tom Durrie, read on. For a longer presentation by Sandy Garossino, click here.
January 31, 2011
Dear Mayor and Council:
The Alliance for Arts and Culture encourages Mayor and Council to adopt the
motion, moved by Councillors Woodsworth and Cadman regarding Casino
Development in our City. We have also been asked to speak on behalf of the
BC Association for Charitable Gaming (BCACG), which has submitted a written
submission. Together our organizations represent over 6,500 member
organizations and individuals. Motion B.6 addresses growing concerns in
this City and Province that Gaming has been expanded in an unchecked manner
and operates in a non-transparent and potentially conflicted way. The huge
revenues generated through this aggressive expansion have been attained on
the backs of charities, non-profits, municipalities and communities across
this province. In spite of this increase in revenues, the amount of funds
provided to charities and non-profits has decreased! We estimate that the
recent loss of funds to Metro Vancouver arts and cultural organizations will
be about $4 Million annually!
For years, charities and non-profits, including those in the arts and
cultural sector have been trotted out in front of municipal councils to
support expansion of Gaming activities. This was done with the understanding
that a significant percentage of revenues would be returned to communities
through a promised share to charities and non-profits. Alas this has not
been the case and, in fact, the amount of money that is allocated to civil
society organizations from these growing revenues has decreased.
In 2010, 10.7% of Gaming Revenues were allocated to charities and
non-profits, which is a far cry from the 33%, which the Province promised to
the sector in its 1999 agreement with the BCACG. On the same day in 1999,
the Province signed an agreement with the UBCM to allocate 16.5% of revenues
from Destination Casinos to municipalities. There is little doubt that this
legal agreement has also been broken.
Our members can no longer support the expansion of Gaming in BC until
agreements are re-made and are binding, until the transparency of Gaming
activity in this province is addressed., and until the concerns of the
public regarding the social, economic, and health impacts of expansion in
their communities are heard and considered carefully.
We refer Council to the MOAs and useful information regarding the expansion
of Gaming in the links below.
Amir Ali Alibhai
Executive Director, Alliance for Arts & Culture
and on behalf of Susan Marsden,
Executive Director, BC Association for Charitable Gaming
Dear Mr. Mayor, Councillors and Dr. Ballem:
I apologize I cannot be there in person this evening to deliver these remarks. I was there this morning, but the change to this evening makes it impossible for me to be there tonight.
My name is Sean Bickerton. I am chair of my strata at Paris Place, co-chair of the Keefer Community Group, a member of the steering committee of the False Creek Residents Association and a member of the Vancouver Not Vegas! Coalition.
It is in this capacity and on my own behalf that I am supporting Ellen Woodsworth’s motion B6 on Casino Development. I remember when the gambling it addresses was first legalized in this province and it was on the solemn promise that 1/3 of the revenue would go back to local community charities, sports, arts and education.
Instead, they’ve cut the charities off completely while handing out more than four hundred million dollars to private casino owners over the past ten years!
How can we then consider such a massive expansion of gambling in our city after the compact that made legalized gambling possible in the first place has been completely abrogated?
The broader community I represent fully supports honoring the original arrangement wherein 1/3 of lottery funds supported needed charities helping local communities.
While we realize that issue itself may fall outside of the normal purview of this government, you are more than entitled to ask questions of the senior level of government now asking you to endorse placing the largest casino in Western Canada right in the heart of our stunningly beautiful, richly cultured, creative city.
I feel Councillor Woodsworth’s motion is particularly germane when you are being asked to approve a rezoning, development application, gambling license expansion and gambling license move all in one vote.
For all of these reasons, expansion should be put on hold until Councillor Woodsworth’s questions are answered.
I appreciate your consideration,
February 1, 2011
Vancouver City Council
Standing Committee of Council on City Services and Budgets
Mr. Chariman, Mr. Mayor, Councillors, ladies and gentlemen.
First let me say how much I appreciate and value to opportunity to speak to you on matters that are of personal concern to me. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that I strongly support the motion currently before you.
Before coming here, I decided to satisfy my curiosity about how we arrived at the situation we are facing today with regard gambling revenues. It’s a very interesting history, starting with the Criminal Code of 1892.prohibiting all forms and gambling as offences against religion and morals. Early on though, things like raffles and games of chance were allowed at agricultural fairs and exhibitions. Since then, there has been a step by step relaxation of restrictions on gambling, with the major change in federal policy happening in 1969, when the Criminal Code was amended to permit gambling. I’m sure the public saw this change as merely an expansion of activities like church basement bingos and PTA raffles, a harmless way of making a little money for a good cause. And it’s true that charities and non-profits have been especially active in influencing these changes. In other words, charities and non-profits provided the justification—or should I say leverage—for changes in government gambling policies.
Amendment to the Criminal Code gave the provinces more and more control of various forms of gambling with the understanding that charities were receiving their share. In fact, they were becoming increasingly dependent upon this source of revenue.
In the mid-1980s, the British Columbia government moved to curtail the expansion of gambling in response to police concerns about the involvement of organized crime. That was more than 20 years ago! However, a backlash by the non-profit sector—they didn’t want to lose their money—caused the government to reconsider. A number of new regulations were introduced including one that said that non-profit organizations would receive 50% of casino winnings. I wonder what ever happened to that!
In short, this history has been a slow process of government raking a larger and larger share out of the hands of charities and into general revenues. Small changes taking place over a period of time are not always noticed. It’s rather like looking at yourself in the mirror one morning and noticing that you’re not as young as you used to be.
Through the 1990s various government studies and commissions looked at how proceeds from gambling were to be distributed, and made some regulations, including the establishment of the Provincial Charity Trust, a kind of community chest funding model. Without going into details, a challenge resulted in the Supreme Court of British Columbia ruling that the provincial government had no authority to appropriate a share of gambling revenues intended for charitable or religious organizations. So much for that! I’m sure you’re aware of the agreement of 1999 guaranteeing one third of gambling proceeds to charities. I understand that the government has seen fit to reduce this to something around 10%, while, at the same time, placing the Lottery Corporation and the Enforcement Branch conveniently under one ministry.
The original purpose of allowing gambling has been reversed, and much of this has been quietly slipped under the door without the awareness or consent of the public. I think this is changing as people see the results of funding shortfalls being experienced by community charities, sports, and arts groups. This motion is a step toward restoring public confidence in how gambling is regulated. What with a provincial election coming who-knows-when, and a civic election coming you-know-when, I hope you will think of your legacy, especially now, by letting the people who elected you know that you’re on their side.