Vancouver Not Vegas, the citizens’ coalition group that successfully mobilized opposition to the proposed expanded Edgewater Casino development, has another target in its sights: the B.C. Lottery Corporation advertising budget.
This morning, the organization called on Premier Christy Clark to immediately suspend the BCLC’s advertising campaigns, and use that money to restore funding to the Vancouver International Children’s Festival and other B.C. charities affected by cuts to gaming grants.
“We call on Premier Clark to take urgent action on her ”˜Families First’ agenda and save our vital community institutions today,” reads a statement from the group. “We ask Premier Clark, as an emergency measure, to immediately suspend all B.C. Lottery Corporation marketing and advertising and divert that budget to charities and non-profits facing closure, pending the outcome of the upcoming gaming review. Vancouver Not Vegas further asks Premier Clark to order the B.C. Lottery Corporation to disclose its marketing and advertising budget to the public that pays for it.”
In a phone interview, Sandy Garossino, spokesperson for Vancouver Not Vegas, said the financial problems faced by the VICF, which has had its gaming grant cut by 50 percent, spurred the group to action.
“What we’re asking is for the Premier to save the Children’s Festival, and if she’s looking for a place where she can pull money to do that, we’re suggesting that the [B.C.] Lottery Corporation has a huge advertising budget,” she said. “As an emergency measure the province should suspend [the BCLC’s] advertising and take that budget, and use it for emergency funding of the charities that are on the brink of failure.”¦ The Children’s Festival will close on Sunday, and we may lose a Vancouver institution. It’s very urgent that these things start to happen now. There are some 1,500 charities and non-profits across the province that are at risk of completely failing and closing their doors within the next two to three months, if not by the fall."
The Kelowna Women’s Resource Centre has already closed its doors, Garossino noted, adding that more organizations are feeling the pinch now that multiyear grants are beginning to expire. Many, she said, are close to breaking point. “Many of them have just been running on fumes,” she said. “A number of them have been cut for a long time, and they are just really at the end of their ropes. What we understand from the B.C. Association for Charitable Gaming, they have done their own internal polling of their membership, and the thousands of non-profits that they deal with, and they know that things are at an extreme state.”
In the statement from Vancouver Not Vegas, Susan Marsden, president of the B.C. Association for Charitable Gaming, said: “The expansion of gambling in B.C. has only hurt the non-profit sector. The greater the B.C. Lottery Corporation revenue, the worse it gets for charities.”
Lindsay Brown, co-founder of Vancouver Not Vegas, added: “The public was assured that if gambling were expanded, significant revenues would be directed to the charities and non-profits that serve communities. That promise was broken, and now families and communities are taking the hit.”
According to Vancouver Not Vegas, programs affected by gaming grant cuts include support for brain injury survivors, services to families of the Canadian Armed Forces servicemen and women, support for seniors and youth at risk, and transportation of sick children to hospitals and treatment centres across the province.
“Emergency funding has to happen now. Once an organization fails, it can’t be put back together again,” urged Garossino. “So we will lose it forever, or it would cost far more to reinstate it. It’s absolutely critical that funding get to these organizations before they fail.”
She added: "There are millions and millions of dollars that are going into the B.C. Lottery Corporation advertising budget, and that’s subsidizing advertising for private businesses--the casinos are private businesses. And the taxpayer is paying for their advertising. Why are we subsidizing advertising for private enterprises when we’ve got the public organizations that are serving families and communities are failing?"