Starting tomorrow, Alberta casino tables will be open three more hours each night, raising concerns about the ability for non-profit organizations that rely on gambling proceeds to find volunteers.

The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) recently approved a three-hour extension, allowing casino tables to be open for a 17-hour stretch instead of the current 14 hours.

Casino operators were calling for longer hours and some charities hoped it would increase their revenues, according to a report by the AGLC.

But other not-for-profit groups, which supply volunteers for casinos in exchange for a cut of the revenues, have questions about the decision-making process. Casinos produce $63,000 to $67,000 per quarter for each organization that sends volunteers.

To earn casino proceeds, an Alberta charity has to put 39 volunteers in casinos over a two-day period, said Leslie Evans, executive director of the Federation of Calgary Communities.

“Adding three hours to a day could make it more and more difficult to fill those shifts, especially on a weeknight,” she said.

Currently, volunteers are out of the casinos by 3 a.m., after counting cash. But now she expects they will be there as late as 5 a.m.

“It’s tough when you have to get up and go to work after getting out of the casino at three,” Evans said. “I think the perception will be that they might as well not go to sleep for an hour or two, that they might as well go straight to work. I think that will deter some people.”

Charities count on the funds

Not sending volunteers is not an option for many groups, she said. 

“There is no other fundraiser that has that equivalent take. So it’s really important. That money is used to offset our programs, facilities, and the services we provide to Calgarians and to Albertans, because casinos are across the province.”

She’s trying to reach the AGLC about who was consulted on the new rules and may join the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues in asking the province to reverse the decision. She’s also interested in creating a database of keen casino volunteers willing to fill in when organizations can’t get enough helpers.

Meeting 'consumer demand'

The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission said it's trying to strike a balance, said Dan Huang.

"We're trying to meet consumer demand," he said. "We hope to see increased revenues for charities and we'll just monitor the situation and see how it goes from there."

Lee Athias, who manages the Grey Eagle Casino, said 24-hour casinos are next.

"There are people here who work night shifts, there are people who work afternoon shifts, so why should they not have the opportunity to go out after work and do something, anything? Come in and have a meal, never mind play."

Each organization will have to weigh whether the money justifies the later hours, said Athias.

"I'd be hard-pressed to see them go back to the old days of bottle drives and bake sales. You're not going to run your hockey team that way."

According to a report by the AGLC, 61 per cent of the charities consulted liked the idea of longer hours.

“The majority of those in favor of longer hours cited increased revenue potential as the primary reason for doing so,” according to the report. “For those charities opposed to expanded table hours, an increased burden on the volunteer pool was the biggest concern for most charity groups. Other reasons for opposition include perceptions that the extra hours are unnecessary, and that there isn’t sufficient demand to justify more hours.”