The ownership group of a Camrose casino is challenging a decision preventing it from relocating to southeast Edmonton, saying it would negatively impact Alberta’s charitable gaming system.
In August, Capital City Casinos applied to move one of its casinos from Camrose to a vacant lot near Parsons Road.
At that time, some residents in the area were worried the proposed relocation of the 60,000-square-foot casino would create traffic bottlenecks. Last month, Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) denied the casino relocation application.
On Monday, Stagewest Hospitality which owns the Camrose Resort Casino, told CTV News Edmonton rejecting that proposal affects hundreds of rural charities.
Jason Pechet, Stagewest Hospitality president, said all cities with casinos in the province, except Edmonton, have at least one casino where rural charitable organizations are licensed to conduct and manage casino fundraising events.
Between 600 and 650 charities host casino events in Camrose, which, according to CTV News Edmonton numbers, receives the least revenue in the province.
Pechet said to overcome that, AGLC pools Camrose-region charities with St. Albert, the next lowest-performing area for charitable gaming proceeds out of nine total regions.
He says the relocation to Edmonton would help bring balance to the revenues rural charities receive from charitable gaming compared to urban ones, as that site would only service rural charities to not dilute existing revenues at the city’s five other casinos.
“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,” Pechet said.
According to Pechet, since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Camrose casino has experienced revenue declines and may not be financially viable for the long term.
Should it not be able to relocate, all the rural charities relying on it would be redistributed across casinos in Edmonton, with projections showing charitable gaming wait times in Edmonton rising and profits decreasing, Pechet said.
“If Camrose closes, you are now leaving stranded between 600 and 650 charities which will have to go somewhere,” Pechet said.
A diagram showing charitable casino wait times and average revenues in the province (Supplied).
Pechet also pointed to a 2021 AGLC charitable gaming review which recommended a consensus agreement that a casino in the Edmonton area be designated to service rural area charities, like how one is in Calgary.
“We were going to do just that,” he said.
“Most charities that have casino licenses assume that everyone is treated the same regardless of where they are located,” echoed Morris Henderson, Rotary Club of Camrose treasurer, in a statement.
“Rural-based organizations are astounded and angry when they see how disproportionate the access to casino revenue is between Edmonton, Calgary, and everyone else,” Henderson added. “Why are rural Albertans forced to earn less than those who live in the city?”
Coun. Keren Tang, representing the ward the proposed casino is trying to relocate to, says she shares concerns about the AGLC engagement process, potential traffic increases, and the lack of infrastructure to support those new motorists.
“I don’t know what the appeal process will look like in this next phase, and how much the public can provide further input,” Tang added. “I would encourage community members to directly contact AGLC if they have other feedback to share.”
No date has been set for the appeal.
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Stephanie Prues and Joe Scarpelli
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