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.

9 thoughts on “Wildrose KENO-Arena lottery gambles with future of charities and non-profits.”

  1. There already exists a huge shortfall of grant request funds vs actual funds available.

    Danielle clearly doesn’t have her facts straight.

  2. I’ve volunteered at dozens of casinos and bingos for volunteers groups and my children’s sports teams over the past 10 years.

    It sucks but it’s the only way we can get money to keep these groups operating. If billionaire Daryl Katz wants a new arena, he can work his own bingo or pay out of his own pocket.

    Danielle Smith just wants to hand hundreds of millions from the lottery money over to help out a billionaire hockey team owner? What kind of alternate universe do these out of touch politicians live in?

    While I’m here, there hasn’t been a single Oilers game played this season. The rich owners and players need to re earn my trust if they want to convince me that free money is an entitlement.

  3. Wow, what a “new” idea, as the breathless media spent the whole day trumpeting this breakthrough discovery of a money tree by Danielle, the province has already been breaking and sucking dry monetarily, the dull of Alberta for years with gambling of some form or another. There are about 15 people in this little area alone, that can’t afford a Maytag box to live in because of gambling machines. Let the 1.4 million a year baby hockey players fund their own playpens, I had to buy mine for my children. Put the gambling money into Hospitals and Schools and roads Danielle, Alberta has enough daycare throughout the province without centralizing it to new arenas in Calgary and Edmonton.

  4. In other words Keno is a tax on the stupid. Knowing that, it seems unfair of Danielle Smith to ask her own supporters to foot the bill for Katz new barn…

  5. Yes, it isn’t very nice to target anyone with a “tax on the stupid.” Gotta hand it to Danielle though, she sure knows her base!

  6. I found the most interesting comment is the “slip” by
    Horner, who said the Redford group is already thinking of pooling lottery funds for municipal infrastructure – recreational and ciultural! This sounds like a larger “take” of lottery funds for “arenas et al” than Smith was proposing. So why all the rhetoric?
    BUT the Redford govt has to find the funds for the Edmonton arena and Katz – they are just looking for a name and a scheme to make it look like something other than payback for the BIG cheque during the campaign

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