Prince Edward Island government defends bingo investment

Teresa Wright
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 Joyce Jay, left, Marie Hendricken play bingo at the Murchison Centre recently.

Finance Minister Wes Sheridan says money is investment in charities

P.E.I. Finance Minister Wes Sheridan is defending his government’s plans to spend $140,000 to revitalize the bingo industry in Prince Edward Island.

Sheridan says the money is an investment in charities that raise money through the game of bingo.

“It’s not an investment in the game, it’s an investment in charities,” Sheridan said.

Last year, the province spent $22,000 on a 22-page consultant’s report that found revenues for P.E.I.’s bingo industry have plummeted.

Net receipts have dropped by close to 50 per cent, from $1.2 million in 2006-07 to $635,000 in 2011-12.

Increased competition from other gaming facilities, online gaming, an aging demographic of players and a lack of game innovation were cited as the main factors contributing to the decline of ‘the Charitable Bingo sector.’

The smoking ban, which was extended to include bingo halls in 2009, was identified as an additional factor in the decline of bingo’s popularity.

Reid Burke, executive director of the P.E.I. division of the Canadian Mental Health Association, says his organization has been affected by this loss in revenues.

The not-for-profit Murchison Foundation raises money for the mental health association in P.E.I. through bingo.

“There’s no doubt that the amount of money that we would get from Murchison now, as compared to a number of years ago, is far less and these days it’s harder and harder to generate revenue to support programs and services,” Burke said.

For example, the association has fewer staff members in P.E.I. than it did five years ago, which has limited or stretched mental health promotion programs they offer.

“The impact is we can’t deliver the programs and services in the communities to the same extent that we could five years ago.”

The consultant’s report recommended bingo operators across the Island jointly invest in marketing and promotion of the game to attract new players.

It also says the industry must do more to try to draw younger clientele, as natural attrition is reducing the number of active players.

It further suggested introducing electronic game-play equipment and updated training of bingo operators.

The P.E.I. Lotteries Commission has approved $116,000 in funding to implement suggestions and recommendations in the bingo revitalization report.

Sheridan says this money will only be forwarded if the bingo operators in P.E.I. join together as an association, which has not yet occurred.

Both Burke and Sheridan said non-profit groups that raise money through bingo utilize these revenues to help individuals and communities in Prince Edward Island.

Less money for these organizations could leave vulnerable Islanders with fewer supports.

“This is a charity issue and we have to do as much as we can to make sure that these community groups have the opportunity to do what they’ve done in the past,” Sheridan said.

“It’s a very small investment in a group that has contributed so much to our communities and our charities.”

Organizations: P.E.I. division, Canadian Mental Health Association, Murchison Foundation P.E.I. Lotteries Commission

Geographic location: P.E.I., Prince Edward Island.Sheridan, Iceland Prince Edward Island.Less

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Recent comments

  • John W.A. Curtis
    February 26, 2014 - 09:44

    The province needs to find other revenues for charities and non-profit organizations. Young people need jobs and will spend money elsewhere. The province can't provide new solutions.

  • Lindsay
    February 26, 2014 - 08:30

    Well maybe these charities need to start looking elsewhere for revenue. Why dump money into a dying industry. I'm sorry but I just don't see twenty something's heading out to the ol bingo hall for a good time.

  • S.J. MacLeod
    February 26, 2014 - 08:18

    What a pathetic waste of taxpayers money. This government seems addicted to promoting gambling on PEI and doing very little to promote jobs. The more money spent on gambling means less money going to support Island business which means less jobs.

  • fed up
    February 26, 2014 - 08:09

    What a bunch of ninnies! The vast majority of bingo players go out for a few hours of harmless affordable fun. Keep it going. It is good for the community and healthy for people to socialize .

  • every vote gets a free dobber
    February 26, 2014 - 07:55

    pathetic..'nough said!

  • yolanda
    February 26, 2014 - 07:40

    It is unfortunate that journalists do not make it their business to report who do these 'studies and recommendations'. I would like to know what friends of the party are getting rich on doing all these useless studies. Why is the Government mixing them selves up in this matter anyway? Let things be, and take responsibility for mental health if money is needed there. This is just an exercise to get out of doing what a government should be responsible for, - instead of giving money top the 'friends' at every turn. Rotten is what it is, morally BANKRUPT is the word for this behaviour of Wes & Ghiz.

  • dave anger
    February 26, 2014 - 07:32

    people are not going to bingo they can gamble online play lotto or the casino competition. stop wasting out tax money!

  • Angus
    February 25, 2014 - 22:44

    Typical Wes! right up there with defending multi million dollar investment in racetrack barns - all for your horse owing buddies who live in your riding. And voters are dumb enough to go along with it. What a racket - supporting gambling and its addicts!

  • candrayo
    February 25, 2014 - 22:30

    I am shocked a Mental Health organization is receiving fundraising from gambling….OMG…no wonder we have little trust in doctors these days and government! Even an uneducated person has got to see this is soooooooo not right on soooo many levels!

  • candrayo
    February 25, 2014 - 22:22

    Gambling is Gambling…anyway you look at it and our Government encourages it. That means they encourage AND enable mental illness. Well done Wes and crew!!!!

    February 25, 2014 - 20:34

    Another one of your fables Wes. Looking for more backers are you?. Go to the bingo halls yourself and see the number on social assistance with kids sitting at home. See the people on pensions that cannot afford to go yet spend all their money on bingo. Check out how much of the profits actually goes to charities. THEN repeat your story if you can.

  • Another decision by Sheridan??
    February 25, 2014 - 20:33

    Sheridan spends $140,000+ 22,000 to promote bingo to try to compensate for their loss of revenue from the millions his government has donated to the Red Sand casino! This is one area where our HST dollars on our electricity bills, gasoline and our non-indexed income on our provincial income tax goes to fund his mismanagement of the provinces revenue!