Camrose Casino is staying put – at least for the time being.
Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) have officially denied an application to relocate the Canadian casino – currently located at 3201 48th Avenue – to a vacant lot in south Edmonton.
The request was originally made in August by Capital City Casinos Ltd. – Camrose Casino’s owners. But with overwhelming community backlash citing traffic concerns, transparency issues and potential charitable impact – the move was axed.
Capital City now has 30 days to make an appeal (deadline: Dec.15).
Regardless, Ward Karhiio Coun. Keren Tang – a pivotal figure against the relocation — said she is pleased for the time being.
“While there is still a 30-day period for the applicant to request an appeal, we wanted to share this new with the community as many residents of the Ward came together in opposition of this application. Our office will keep a close eye on any appeal process, but we are glad to share this news.”
Community rallies to oppose move despite little notice
On July 29, Capital City placed an ad in a local newspaper detailing its proposed relocation plan. Per AGLC’s regulations, applicants must do so in order to allow community feedback for any potential casino relocation or major expansion proposals.
Regardless, residents felt blindsided. That’s because Aug.10 marked the cut-off date for potential objections to the 60,000-square foot casino. In total, locals had all of 13 days to educate, discuss and submit their concerns.
Despite that, opposition was still aplenty.
In fact, AGLC states 500 submissions were received. Of them, 98% of them renounced the relocation.
Many contacted Tang directly while others wrote to the AGLC.
Whatever the mode of communication, AGLC heard the complaints. In the end, they said the project “lacked community support, did not provide significant economic benefits and would significantly impact Edmonton area-casinos.”
Charities, rural license-designation at centre of debate
Charities stood as one big talking point.
Alberta’s charitable gaming model allows organizations to conduct and manage casino events to fundraise for their causes. Over the years it has become a huge source of income for Albertan charities. AGLC states it is the only province that holds such a model.
However, under this structure, charities are assigned casinos in their region. Usually, whatever region the charity is located in is where the money goes.
For instance, AGLC states “only licensed groups based in Edmonton can access casinos in Edmonton.”
But here’s where things get murky.
Camrose’s proposed relocation would have (physically) seen it out of its current region and into the Edmonton area. Despite that, AGLC said the gaming establishment would still maintain its rural license.
Therefore, Edmonton-based charities wouldn’t have been able to operate at the location. Instead, Camrose-area charities would receive all the cash.
Community groups say Alberta casino relocation contradicted founding principles
At the time, AGLC justified the decision by saying its market analysis determined rural charities would receive additional funding with such a strategy.
However, the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL) vehemently challenged that line of thinking in an open letter to AGLC.
“This goes against AGLC guidelines that, simply put, push for money spent at a casino to stay in the community it’s spent in.”
In total, EFCL estimated nearly $7 million would be lost in charitable gaming revenue to existing Edmonton charities had the deal gone through.
COVID-19 and rural license designation could have proved lethal for charities
Complicating matters further is COVID-19.
Many charities depend on casino funding for their causes. But with closures and restrictions aplenty over the past few years, much of that money has dried up.
Gemma Dunn, executive director of the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations, told CBC Canada she voiced such concerns to AGLC.
“The organizations have been struggling with demand and service, decreased capacity.
“So the idea that this casino had just materialized in the market was very concerning without really understanding the impacts it could have on the [non-profit] sector.”
Traffic concerns frustrate residents
Traffic was another issue.
Capital City’s proposed 420 Parsons Road in south Edmonton as its relocation spot. While currently situated in a vacant plot of land, residents said the land’s infrastructure simply cannot handle such a large casino.
Some locals already consider the site a “traffic nightmare” due to a narrow, two-lane set-up alongside Parsons Road. Further, Capital City also planned on substantially upgrading Camrose to increase revenue.
Currently the casino has 208 slot machines, 10 table games and four poker tables. But if the relocation happened, the operator planned on adding the following:
- 550 slots
- 25 table games
- 2 poker tables (estimated)
- 120 hotel rooms
- Show lounge
- Conference facilities
Thus, with such large upgrades, more interest, popularity and traffic could potentially follow.
Applicant now has 30 days to appeal decision
Looking forward, all eyes will be on the appeal process.
AGLC states it made its decision on the Camrose Casino on Nov. 10, immediately notifying individuals, organizations and communities who provided feedback.
However, Tang stated, via her Twitter, her office didn’t receive word until Nov.20. Regardless, the applicant will now have 30 days to appeal upon receiving the news.
According to the Edmonton Journal, AGLC informed Capital City on Nov.15. Thus, Dec.15 would be the cut-off date.
A board hearing handles the appeals.