Auxiliary troubles
Don't gamble on Legion ladies being around

by Chris Meyers Almey
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 11/97) - As if the Royal Canadian Legion Ladies Auxiliaries don't have enough problems with shrinking memberships, they've got trouble with lotteries too.

Alberta-NWT Command president Carole Gordon said Sunday that the "gaming commission causes a great deal of distress."

"You can't run an in-house raffle without somebody looking over your shoulder and reporting," the Red Deer, Alta., resident said over the weekend.

Gordon - along with other Ladies Auxiliary members of District 7 of the Alberta-NWT Command, which includes Hay River, Inuvik, Yellowknife, Norman Wells and Fort Smith - was in Yellowknife for a convention. She noted that in Alberta, the province still controls lotteries, but in the territories, it's up to each municipality.

"In Inuvik the women run a satellite bingo, where the game is televised locally, and they brought in $78,000 last year. But they can't keep one cent for their own benefit, it must all be dispersed for charities," Gordon said.

In the past six months the ladies' bingos generated $31,000, and in this case the auxiliary is being allowed to keep $10,000, which they will give to the local Legion branch for building maintenance.

The licence is renewed every six months and the bingo has been going for two years.

In Alberta a 50-50 draw means half goes to the branch for whatever reason, be it charity or building maintenance, while the other half goes to the winner, she said.

Since the lottery is not offered outside the branch, it is not required to be licensed, Gordon said.

But since the Ladies Auxiliary doesn't want to get the government mad at the Legion, they follow whatever direction the government gives, the command president said.

Something else the women can't fight is the steady decline in membership.

A decade ago there were 25,000 women in auxiliaries across Canada, Gordon said. "Even in the last two years we have lost significant numbers, going from 12,000 to 10,000 members.

"In the southern part of the command we have lost five auxiliaries in the last two years. This because of the aging of the membership," Gordon said. "They are elderly and don't want to carry on any longer."

In small auxiliaries most of the women might have been members for 30 or 40 years, Gordon said, so they have been rewarded with life memberships.

A $10 tax is levied against every woman, except for those who are life members. The money is used to cover the operating expenses of the command headquarters.

With so many life members there is little capital coming in "so your auxiliary will fold also," Gordon said.