Wildrose KENO-Arena lottery gambles with future of charities and non-profits.

Wildrose Keno Alberta

Alberta’s new Wildrose lottery.

Wildrose Official Opposition leader Danielle Smith re-injected herself into the latest round of news coverage about how to fund the Katz Group’s on-again, off-again arena north of Edmonton’s downtown.

At a press conference this afternoon, Ms. Smith proposed that the provincial government should examine using the “KENO gambling model” to generate revenue for the proposed downtown arena in Edmonton and a future new hockey arena in Calgary.

The Wildrose press release states that KENO gambling “raised just over $3.1 million in revenue last year in Alberta where it is featured in 88 bingo halls, casinos and gaming rooms.” The release notes that in British Columbia, “the gambling model generated nearly $235 million in revenue last year and is played in about 4,000 locations, including sports bars and pubs.”

A big question about the Wildrose’s proposed idea is whether the expansion of a KENO gambling model will dilute funds generated through already existing lotteries. Many Alberta charities, volunteer groups, and not-for-profits depend on already existing lottery funds to operate and, under a KENO-Arena gambling model, might have to compete with a lottery created to subsidize the funding of a new hockey arena for a privately-owned professional sports team.

Through the Alberta Lottery Fund in 2011-2012, the provincial government allocated $1.44 billion to public initiatives, foundations and grant programs across the province. In British Columbia, even with an expanded KENO gambling model, total government revenues from gaming were about $1.11 billion. The cost estimates for the construction of the proposed Katz Group arena has been estimated to be $450 million.

Finance Minister Doug Horner responded to the Wildrose proposal and let slip news of a potential government lottery plan:

Horner said Premier Alison Redford’s government is looking at another proposal to pool lottery money that could be used by all municipalities to help fund what he called cultural and recreational infrastructure projects.

“The problem with Keno is that it doesn’t raise as much money as would be required to fund that kind of infrastructure,” he said.

Horner said the government is considering a lottery that would allow people to bet on teams such as the Edmonton Oilers and put the proceeds in a separate fund for building projects, but he cautioned that work on the idea is still very preliminary.

While Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel has repeatedly be quoted in the media telling of oncoming provincial funds, Premier Alison Redford, Minister Horner, and Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths had previously denied any intention to fill the $100 million gap in the (now-formerly agreed upon) funding formula between the Katz Group and the City of Edmonton.

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According to the Keno entry on Wikipedia, the odds of a full-payout for someone playing Keno are slim:

The probability of a player hitting all 20 numbers on a 20 spot ticket is approximately 1 in 3.5 quintillion (1 in 3,535,316,142,212,180,000 to be exact). If every person now alive played one keno game every single second of their lives, there would be about one solid 20 jackpot-winning ticket to date. If all these possible keno tickets were laid end to end, they would span the Milky Way galaxy—and only one of them would be a winner. To this day, there are no reports of a keno player lucky enough to match all 20 numbers.

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