A bid to relocate Camrose Resort Casino to Edmonton recently received a much-needed shot in the arm, gaining Barrhead County support.
The boost aids the Capital City Casinos’ mission to increase revenue for rural not-for-profits. And it’s a positive shift, considering Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis denied an earlier application.
The ensuing appeal process opened the door for councillors in Barrhead to help push the Alberta casino relocation forward.
On February 7, council members urged the local administration to write AGLC to ask for a review of its ruling. With the review, the council hopes AGLC will green-light Camrose’s Edmonton move.
Camrose Relocation Project Driven by Lackluster Revenues
Capital City Casinos’ said the request to relocate resulted from choices made by AGLC that led to Camrose’s financial downfall.
In 2019, AGLC approved Century Mile Racetrack and Casino‘s move from Edmonton to Nisku. Then, last year, the provincial gaming regulator authorized the construction of a new casino on Louis Bull First Nation.
Both changes were significant because the brick-and-mortar gaming facilities are within 60 kilometres of Camrose.
The new circumstances intensified Capital City’s frustration toward AGLC’s ruling, but they weren’t the only community members feeling its effect. The company argued that AGLC’s decision impacts the region’s local charities and not-for-profit organizations.
It’s common practice for charitable organizations to be assigned casinos in their shared region, where the former receives a percentage of the latter’s revenues.
For charities attached to Camrose, organizations are limited to working with casinos in rural areas outside of Alberta’s two major cities, Edmonton and Calgary. As such, they aren’t privy to the same funding that organizations under the urban umbrella receive.
However, if the AGLC approved Camrose’s move, it would remain in the rural charity gaming pool and be able to keep serving the same charities.
Relocation Advocates Step Up to the Plate
County of Barrhead’s Doug Drozd spoke for the Rural Municipalities of Alberta to back Camrose’s application.
“To me, the move from Camrose to the city makes great sense. Not only will it increase the pot for the Camrose area, but overall, for Alberta.”
“Initially, I think it even made sense to AGLC, and they had it approved, but then political forces got involved, and they backed down.”
Wyatt Skovron, RMA’s policy and advocacy manager, also shared his support in a letter to rural municipalities. In it, he asked they lobby AGLC.
“[Casinos in St. Albert and Camrose] currently produce the lowest per-event revenues and have among the highest wait times (for not-for-profit organization casino dates) in the province, while Edmonton’s five casinos produce the highest average per-event revenues in the province and have the shortest wait times.”
Allowing Camrose’s relocation bid to pass would not solve inequity in the charity gaming system, said Skovron. But it would demonstrate the province recognizes the systemic inadequacies affecting rural, not-for-profits.
He also suggested AGLC denied the application over pushback from Edmonton charities worried about losing revenue.
But, as Drozd noted, Calgary’s casinos already share revenue with rural organizations, so repeating in Edmonton shouldn’t be a problem.
“Is it perfect? No,” said Drozd.
“But in the absence of making those types of changes (province-wide pooling of funds), this would be a good first step in trying to level the playing field.”