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Charities' revenues riding on the province's casino proposal.

Reaction from charitable organizations is mixed to the province's announced plan to legalize casinos and off-track betting parlors.

The casinos could either mean a windfall or a loss of valuable revenue, depending on how the province implements the controversial plan.

What's at stake is the money presently raised for charities by bingo operations. Canadians reportedly spend more than $1.5 billion annually on the game.

What's not known is whether legalized casinos will cut into bingo revenues and affect non-profit fundraising events and whether the province intends to share its casino revenues with charities.

Derek McLean, the director of development for the Ontario division of The Arthritis Society, does not believe bingo operations will be affected by casinos.

"People who play bingo like it. It's almost entertainment," he says.

However, McLean predicts that casinos will force charities to be more creative in their fundraising efforts and rely less on events such as Monte Carlo nights.

Glenn Craig, the fundraiser for the McKellar Hospital Foundation in Thunder Bay, is concerned that casinos will claim a substantial portion of the disposable income consumers can afford to gamble.

The hospital foundation is currently holding a raffle for a $130,000 condominium as part of a $500,000 fundraising campaign for a regional trauma centre.

"With a changed climate, something like that won't work," says Craig.

Jim Strachan, executive director of The Kidney Foundation's Ontario branch, also raises the concern that legalized casinos will reduce the amount of money charities raise by holding Monte Carlo nights.

"You must ensure charities that they are not going to lose revenue. It (legalized casinos) is a real threat and a real concern," he says.

However, Strachan's concern is not shared by Lois Krause, vice-president of the development office for the Plummer Memorial Public Hospital in Sault Ste. Marie.

Krause says her foundation has been very successful in its recent campaign, despite the existence of a casino across the river in Sault, Mich.

"We haven't seen a dramatic effect on our activities," she says.

Krause reports that a recent casino night helped the hospital come to within $60,000 of its $1.1-million fundraising goal for a new rental services facility at the hospital.

She says the hospital has employed several fundraising activities over the past two years, including direct-mail campaigns, charity balls and bed races.

Meanwhile, Dale Manahan, the manager of Diamond Bingo in Thunder Bay, views the government's casino proposal as a positive move.

"We (Thunder Bay) lose roughly $40,000 every weekend to casinos in Grand Portage and Duluth," Manahan points out.
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Title Annotation:Ontario's plan to legalize casinos
Author:Brown, Stewart
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Jun 1, 1992
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