Let the Alberta Casino battle begin.
Camrose Casino’s ownership group is officially challenging a decision preventing the relocation of its business. Currently, the casino is at 3201 48th Avenue, but they want to move to a vacant lot in southeast Edmonton.
Regardless, last month the Alberta Gaming and Liquor and Cannabis denied the casino’s bid. They cited a lack of community support, minimal economic benefits and the potential negative impact on Edmonton area casinos.
Camrose’s rural designation stands at the crux of the standoff. Despite moving out of its region with the proposed relocation, Camrose would keep its rural designation. Thus, its proceeds would benefit rural — and not Edmonton-based — charities.
It’s warranted, said Stagewest Hospitality — Camrose’s ownership group. In fact, according to them, denying the move would severely impact hundreds of rural charities that depend on Camrose’s revenue.
But, the proposed community — who entered 500 submissions of concern, 98% of which opposed the move — think otherwise.
An appeal date is still forthcoming.
Appeak: Relocation needed due to low revenues
Camrose Casino currently has 208 slot machines, 10 table games and four poker tables. However, if relocated, the business would become a 60-000-square-foot casino with 550 slots, 25 table games, 120 hotel rooms and much more.
In other words, there would be substantial upgrades and the potential for additional revenue.
To that end, despite the overwhelmingly negative communal response, Stagewest Hospitality’s president, Jason Pechet, is eager to make his case.
He says to think of the larger picture.
For starters, he says Camrose charities receive the lowest revenue in the province. For instance, Camrose states gaming events at its location raised roughly $6,100 this past year. Meanwhile, in Edmonton, it was $39,000.
To overcome that, AGLC pools the Camrose and St.Albert regions. The latter is the lowest-performing area for charitable gaming proceeds out of the nine regions.
Wait time for casino fundraising events nearly double
Wait times to get a casino fundraising event are also higher in Camrose (41 months) compared to Edmonton (23 months).
COVID’s impact (lost revenue) is another consideration.
“If Camrose closes, you are now leaving stranded between 600 to 650 charities which will have to go somewhere.
Halt of relocation runs contrary to Alberta’s charitable model
On a larger scale, Pechet says the denied relocation runs contrary to the Alberta charitable gaming model.
According to him, all cities with casinos in the province have at least one casino where rural charitable organizations are licensed to conduct and manage casino fundraising events. Edmonton is the lone exception.
To that end, the relocation would help bring balance, he said. Consider Edmonton already has five other casinos. But Pechet would prefer all rural charities stay at a single location (Camrose) rather than spreading them out across various casinos. This way, there would be no dilution of revenue to city charities.
“This was a way to get a little bit more equity, certainly not a complete amount of equity but a little bit more equity coming back to them.”
Unequal distribution angers Camrose
Pechet also pointed to a 2021 AGLC charitable gaming review. The document presented a consensus agreement: an Edmonton-area casino should service rural charities.
Calgary already has one in place.
Morris Henderson, Rotary Club of Camrose treasurer, shared his thoughts via a statement:
“Most charities that have casino licenses assume that everyone is treated the same regardless of where they are located.”
Rural-based organizations are astonished and angry when they see how disproportionate the access to casino revenue is between Edmonton, Calgary and everyone else. Why are rural Albertans forced to earn less than those who live in the city?”
But, existing Edmonton charities would lose $7 million
Despite Pechet’s argument, Edmonton charities see something else.
For instance, the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues is one of the loudest detractors. With relocation, they estimated Edmonton charities would lose nearly $7 million in charitable gaming revenue.
They expressed their concerns in an open letter.
“This goes against AGLC guidelines that, simply put, push for money spent at casino to stay in the community it’s spent in.”
Of course, COVID has also impacted Edmonton charities. Some say the region can’t take on anything else at the moment.
Contact AGLC directly if you have further feedback
Beyond charities, transparency issues were another talking point.
On July 29, Capital City Casinos placed an ad in a local newspaper announcing its proposed relocation. The ad fulfilled AGLC’s regulations that applicants must allow community feedback for potential casino relocations.
However, the only issue was Aug.10 was the cut-off date for potential objections.
Despite that, 500 submissions came in within 13 days – 98% of which opposed the move.
Many contacted Ward Karhiio Coun. Keren Tang. She represents the area proposed for the move.
She is urging her constituents to write in if they have further concerns.
“I don’t know what the appeal process will look like in this next phase, and how much the public can provide further input.
I would encourage the community members to directly contact AGLC if they have other feedback to share.”
Board hearing to handle appeal
For the next steps, a board hearing will handle the appeals process though there’s no appeal date yet.
Regardless, plenty of people are waiting to see what happens.