From Where I Sit – Their Rules

In Alberta, charities and societies have grown to rely on the proceeds of gaming to fund special projects, programming, operating costs, and other approved expenditures. Those proceeds may come through a provincial grant program or more directly through working casinos or satellite bingos. As Festival Coordinator, working for a society that now has two years of community programming under its belt since incorporation, I am in the throes of applying for our casino eligibility.

The scary, sad part is that if our application is approved, it will be about three years before our turn comes. Then the time between the first and second casino will be another two or three years. The system is far from perfect.

Another big irritant for many groups is that geography determines which casino you are assigned. Back in the day, groups loved getting Fort McMurray because the money was big. Like with satellite bingo, the money is pooled and split between the participating groups who worked in a particular time period. The Camrose casino is one of the smallest and the one we would be assigned to. An Edmonton group can walk away with $80,000 from a city casino, while the payout from Camrose might be only a quarter of that.

And so it was that I spent two days and nights in Camrose this week as one of five volunteers for the church-run casino. I thought it would be a good learning experience, and, also, who couldn’t use some good karma? As someone who can count on one hand the times She’s been in a casino, everything was new. My role was cashier, so I was stationed in a ?cage? with two other volunteers and the paid coordinator. This man was hired by the church to lead us, step by step, through the myriad details involved in the process. The security procedures and checks and balances that ensure no funny business occurs, by either casino employees or volunteers from the community, are quite impressive.

We were allowed electronics like smart phones and tablets but the Wi-Fi was patchy. The big no-no would be attempting to take photos. A TV had been installed but I found the location in the room (above my head near the ceiling) didn’t really encourage viewing. The other volunteers had a much better room at their disposal. Because this is not a busy casino we were encouraged to take breaks as long as the two-person minimum in the cage was satisfied. The meals available at the restaurant/lounge were excellent.

I came equipped with Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Gold Finch in hand. Despite the distractions of conversation and stopping to convert chips into cash I was able to finish that incredible book.

No one anticipates that the government will be changing how casinos are assigned or money is shared. So in an environment where the house usually wins, we’re prepared to play by their rules, from where I sit.

Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.

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