Arts advocates are applauding Vancouver's council for passing a motion that lends support to the charitable sector’s battle over gambling grant cuts.
Late Tuesday night, councillors passed an amended version of a motion brought forward by Councillor Ellen Woodsworth, resolving that the city support calls for the Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch and the B.C. Lottery Corporation to be separated into different ministries; that the city call for a review of public gambling in the province of B.C.; that council support the B.C. Association of Charitable Gaming’s call for the Auditor General to investigate and review the province’s obligations to charities with regards to gambling revenues; and that the city affirms the inherent and contractual rights and interests of charities and non-profits to gambling proceeds. Councillors also agreed to request the motion be endorsed by the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
While he acknowledged the motion as “largely symbolic,” Amir Ali Alibhai, executive director of the Alliance for Arts and Council, said it was an important move on the city's behalf. “I was really happy to see council take a stand in this way, recognizing, particularly, the inherent right of charities and not-for-profits to a share of gaming revenues in the province.... I think it does apply public awareness and pressure on the province to pay attention to this issue.”
The motion, which was introduced January 18 to council and deferred to February 1, also originally called for council to refuse gambling expansion in the city until the rights of the not-for-profit to gambling proceeds are protected, but this section had to be struck as the city will be holding a public hearing February 17 on an application for the expansion of Edgewater Casino.
The Alliance for Arts and Council does not have a position on that particular casino’s expansion, said Alibhai, but the organizations does support the B.C. Association of Charitable Gaming’s call that any expansion of gambling in the province should be halted until the province honours its 1999 memorandum of agreement with the BCACG to give one-third of gambling proceeds to the not-for-profit sector, or negotiates a new agreement.
Alibhai added: “Municipalities can’t directly affect the way the province deals with gaming, but in the end the province does need municipalities onside in order to do the sorts of expansion and development that they have been doing in gaming, and I think that we need to practice democracy.”
He said he believed the motion passed by council may have already had an effect of raising the profile of the gambling issue on the political stage. “I thought it was curious that motion was passed and then two days later, despite two years of asking, we get a statement from Kevin Falcon about wanting to reinstate funds to gaming,” he noted. “Maybe there’s a connection, maybe there’s not. I don’t know. But there’s certainly more awareness than there was even two days ago about this issue.”
B.C. Liberal leadership candidate Falcon has issued a statement saying he would fully restore charitable gambling to $159 million annually, and reinstate a grants category for adult arts and culture.