At Castlegar’s city council meeting on Oct. 21, council received a letter from the Castlegar Rebels hockey club stating the club had been told they would receive a bingo date at Chances Casino to offset the money the club has lost by having to shut down their monthly bingo fundraisers, however, they were later told that wouldn’t be possible.
“When we were doing our public consultations, a problem was brought up by the Castlegar Rebels because they run bingo and with the gaming centre having bingo there was obviously a concern,” said councillor Russ Hearne. “There was a conversation between the management at the time and the Castlegar Rebels, it was agreed that they would do bingos out of the Gaming Centre. The proceeds would go to the Rebels. Nothing to do with the city, an agreement between the gaming centre and the Rebels. As we read the letter something has changed there.”
In the letter to council, Castlegar Rebels president Jim Craig states: “As you are aware, with the recent opening of the Chances Casino, the Castlegar Rebels have had to abandon the monthly bingo we had been hosting for the past 20 years.”
Craig goes on to say that the bingo revenue represented nearly 15 per cent of the club’s annual operating budget, “and now we are faced with a serious financial blow to our organization due to an action the City has taken. During the hearings, the city held to introduce the casinos to our community, we were constantly reassured that the casino would allow organizations such as ours to move our bingo to the casino and as a result we would suffer no loss to our club.
“We met with the casino but were advised they were unable to accommodate our request; contrary to the assurances that were made to us,” said Craig in the letter.
“We strongly feel we have been misinformed…and feel that the City of Castlegar has indirectly damaged the financial viability of our club by this action and misdirection. If we had been aware of the impact of the casino on our organization we may have actively campaigned against the casino entering our community at that time. As such, we would ask the city to meet with our club, to discuss option with respect to this matter.”
Hearne said that although the city is not a party to the arrangement, they will try to work with both sides. He points out that gaming and gaming licences fall under the province’s jurisdiction.”
“We’re going to work with the Rebels and the gaming centre and see if we can come to some sort of resolution so everyone is happy,” he said.
In an interview with the Castlegar News, Craig said that the club will have to make up the shortfall, which accounts for approximately $18,000 of the club’s $150,000 budget for the year.
“In the short term we can absorb maybe a year of this,” he said. “Over the long term, $15,000 times two times three times four, that is going to kill our ability to keep the club alive in Castlegar. I think the community identifies more with the Rebels than with that casino. The city has a serious decision on their hand as to what their priorities are: is it youth sports? Or that casino out at the airport and that revenue?”