Charities hope review reforms gambling grants

A review of how the province shares its gambling profits with community groups must restore slashed grants to former levels and curtail Victoria's ability to interfere in the future, charity advocates say.

A review of how the province shares its gambling profits with community groups must restore slashed grants to former levels and curtail Victoria’s ability to interfere in the future, charity advocates say.

The Community Gaming Grant Review, announced recently by Premier Christy Clark, is to deliver a top-to-bottom assessment of the system and determine options to “create certainty and sustainability” for affected non-profit groups and charities.

Many groups were outraged in 2009 when the province cut grants to community groups from $156 million to $120 million a year. That was raised to $135 million this spring after Clark took office.

Susan Marsden, president of the B.C. Association for Charitable Gaming, characterized the raid two years ago as an attack on non-profits, particularly those in arts and culture.

“They decided they were going to cut out arts and culture entirely, cut environmental groups entirely, cut other groups by 50 per cent and give 100 per cent to their favourite charities,” she said.

Rich Coleman, the former minister in charge of gaming, had defended the cuts as necessary to shore up B.C.’s budget amid a deepening global recession and said the reallocations were geared to protect youth groups at the expense of organizations serving adults.

Marsden praised Clark for delivering on her pledge of a review and said the terms of reference are acceptable.

“Many non-profit groups are “on life support” after cutting staff and switching to cheaper accommodation, she said.

More than two thirds of the $1-billion a year in revenue that comes to the province from gambling goes into general revenue, with another $147 million dedicated to health funding, $82 million shared with cities that host casinos or community gaming centres and the rest is shared with community groups.

The review is to collect input from charities, community members, industry reps and local government. For more information see www.communitygaminggrantreview.gov.bc.ca.