Alberta Casinos Begin Extended Hours

With hours recently extended from 14 to 17 a day, and until 3:00 a.m., casinos in Alberta expect to generate more revenue for charities. On the down side, charities already have problems finding enough volunteers to staff the facilities.

Starting April 1, casinos in Alberta may stay open for 17 instead of 14 hours, and remain open until 3:00 a.m. The good news is the change could bring in more money for the province which receives 70 per cent of casino profits, with the remainder divided between the casino operator and charities. The bad news is charities must staff the casinos, and they have difficulty finding enough volunteers, said Allan Bolstad of the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues.

“It’s just going to be that much longer for everybody to work and as a result it’s going to be that much harder for nonprofit groups to try to find people to work these shifts,” Bolstad said. “Many people will work three or four or five casinos from different organizations, so it’s calling upon the same people in many cases. And after a while people, you know, find it hard to find that much time to help out.” He noted the casinos bring in $70,000-$80,000 over a two-day shift, so staffing them is critical to charities’ bottom lines.

Dan Huang of the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission said, “We’re trying to meet consumer demand. We hope to see increased revenues for charities and we’ll just monitor the situation and see how it goes from there.”

In Saskatchewan, Little Pine First Nation Chief Wayne Semaganis has been scouting Estevan as a possible location for a $30 million casino development, similar to First Nations’ casino-hotel-convention center complex in Lloydminster. Semaganis said a non-binding question on casino development will be included in an Estevan city council election on April 23, and he will meet with council and chamber of commerce members in the near future. “Estevan is booming. It’s a good market. We’re definitely interested if they have the appetite for it,” Semaganis said.

Semaganis said the Canadian dollar is strong and that would attract American gamblers to Estevan, population 11,000, located just minutes from the border. He added Little Pine would build housing for the dozens of workers it would hire.

The Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority has casinos in Prince Albert, Yorkton, Swift Current, the White Bear First Nation, just outside Saskatoon on the Whitecap Dakota First Nation and in North Battleford where Semaganis was general manager of the Gold Eagle Casino. The provincial government operates casinos in Regina and Moose Jaw. Lloydminster and Estevan are two of the last potential casino markets in the province.

Semaganis said the proposed Estevan casino would offer 300 slots and gaming tables, plus a hotel and convention center.