44 per cent of Chase the Ace earnings went to city: Dance society

Bella Beats Dance Troupe perform at the Snowking's Winter Festival in March 2018. Submitted photo
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An organizer of a local dance society is calling for a more equitable system of lottery licensing after 44 per cent of the society’s earning from a Chase the Ace fundraiser went to the city.

Gail Leonardis says the Beats Dance Society earned $39,422 after costs from a Chase the Ace fundraiser which ended Saturday. Of this amount, Leonardis says $17,250 went to the city in lottery licensing fees.

“Unfortunately any amendments to the lottery license bylaw will not benefit us for this fundraiser,” she states in an email to Yellowknife City council. “We hope that council will not let this matter rest but push for amendments to make the system more equitable.”

Leonardis went before council last month to ask for changes to the bylaw governing lotteries. As it stands currently, each Chase the Ace night requires a new licence and the licensing fee is based on the overall jackpot.

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The society, which fundraises for the 33 dancers at Bella Beats Dance Troupe, was paying a $1,500 licence for each draw since the jackpot reached $20,000. Leonardis said it was a hard pill to swallow for a non-profit fundraising for the travel and competition costs of young dancers.

Manager of Corporate Services and Risk Management with the city Clem Hand says increases to the city’s earnings from lottery licensing – $205,040 in 2017 and $217,400 in 2018 – can likely be attributed, in part, to large jackpots from Chase the Ace. In comparison, the city earned $158,050 from lottery licensing in 2016.

“The fees go into general revenue and are not earmarked or dedicated to any certain purpose,” Hand says.

The Yellowknife Fastball League held one of the territory’s most successful Chase the Ace fundraisers from late 2016 to 2017, with a jackpot of over $300,000. President Garrett Hinchey says the money raised has allowed the organization to launch into a revitalization of Tommy Forrest Ballpark, in partnership with the city.

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“All the money has gone towards park improvements,” he says. “There’s grass on the field, we’ve installed a new scoreboard, we’ve expanded our batting cage…we replaced the bleachers and the backstop.”

This year the concession building will be replaced, a more permanent beer garden will be installed and a playground will be built. “By the time it’s all said and done, we’ll essentially have completely flipped over that ballpark.”

Hinchey says the Chase the Ace success allowed the league to turn what was a ‘years in the future pipe dream’ for Tommy Forrest into a reality within a matter of months.

“We had a whole lot of long term projects scheduled out of things we wanted to do with the park and with that money we pulled in, they essentially all became short term projects.”

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It is difficult to complain about what has been a phenomenal success for YK Fastball, Hinchey says. However, for organizations who don’t get as large a growth in the jackpot each week, he adds the licensing fees can be difficult to pay week to week.

“Maybe to do it as a percentage of the jackpot might be something that is a bit more palatable, especially when you’re at the lower bracket,” he says.

An amendment to the bylaw to deal with Chase the Ace is in the works, Hand says.

“The City will be amending the lottery license by-law in the coming months and plans to have this work completed in 2019.”

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