Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad
Bingo here to stay

Gaming revenues keep recreation afloat in Arviat

Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 19/01) - Known as the gateway to the Kivalliq, the hamlet of Arviat tries to keep the latch of responsibility firmly in place when it comes to bingo revenues.

But the hamlet is also honest enough to admit that it's easier said than done.

The hamlet of Arviat's cut on gambling revenues for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2001, was a staggering $197,271.

The hamlet banked $166,206 in Nevada sales and another $31,065 in bingo revenues.

Arviat's senior administrative officer, Darren Flynn, says his recreation department's average annual budget for operations is about $500,000.

"There is absolutely no way to downplay the significance of the contribution bingo and Nevada revenues play in our recreation department," says Flynn. "About 41 per cent of our recreation department's funding is raised from lotteries in Arviat."

There are two bingos each week in Arviat, one Friday and one Saturday. The hamlet takes 48 slots a year, the local radio society claims 24 and another 14 are assigned to the search and rescue team.

That leaves about 20 free slots a year for other local organizations requiring funding. The hamlet usually holds its bingo in the community hall, while other groups do theirs by radio. Flynn says the government was keen in transferring bingo and Nevada over to the hamlets under the Community Transfer Initiatives. He says these days, it would take a massive piece of legislation to outlaw bingo if the government ever decided it does more harm than good.

And, while it's highly unlikely it will ever happen, the SAO says the loss of bingo would completely devastate his recreation department.

Flynn says he hasn't heard bingo addiction discussed to any great length in council during the past five years.

He says when he first started working with the municipality about eight years ago, bingo and Nevada licences were administered by the Department of the Executive in Rankin Inlet. At that time, there were five bingos a week being held in Arviat and a sixth night was being discussed.

That, says Flynn, was way too much. Once Arviat took the initiative to transfer the authority of bingo and it came under the hamlet's control, council quickly cut the number of weekly games down to two.

Obvious benefit

Flynn says he's never heard of anyone in Arviat losing their house or life's savings over bingo. But he doesn't deny there are people in Arviat who spend a fair amount on bingo.

"I've never seen anyone appear before council to say bingo was destroying families and we had to do away with it and find another way to raise funds."

The hamlet, however, did try to cut bingo to one night a week a few years ago.

Flynn says not only was it devastating to the local agencies that depend on bingo for funding, but home gambling in the community increased significantly.

"Bingo has us all holding our noses and asking should we really be doing this?" he asks. "At the same time, there's an obvious benefit being derived when the money goes into areas like recreation and search and rescue. The funds generated by bingo and Nevadas are badly needed in the Kivalliq. Until something comes along to change that, bingo is here to stay."