NWT jackpot could help restore Sport North’s funding

Sport North awards
Last month, Sport North handed out its annual awards at a ceremony in Yellowknife. Photo: Darren Horn Photography.
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Last week’s million-dollar NWT lottery win could help to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in sports funding.

A ticket bought somewhere in the territory picked up a seven-figure Lotto Max win last Friday. Moose FM understands the prize may have been shared among several winners, whose identities are not yet confirmed.

That win comes after a prolonged “jackpot drought” had a considerable impact on ticket sales and, consequently, funding for sports and recreation in the Northwest Territories.

Organizations like Sport North, the Aboriginal Sport Circle and NWT Recreation and Parks receive funding from a cut of lottery sales, distributed by the NWT Sport and Recreation Council.

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If fewer lottery tickets are sold, there is less funding to go around. Sport North, which represents the territory’s various individual sports organizations, will have $400,000 in funding held back unless sales get a big lift in the next six months.

“We’ll be dipping into our reserves in the new year if sales don’t increase. Obviously, it’s going to have a huge impact on our budget moving forward,” said Sport North’s executive director, Doug Rentmeister.

“Certainly it’s going to hinder our ability to plan new things. The membership is our primary concern, to ensure they are able to at least promote and develop their sports within the Northwest Territories.”

Read: Somebody in the NWT just won a million dollars

Todd Shafer, who represents the NWT Sport and Recreation Council, says ticket sales dropped 8.8 percent in the Northwest Territories over the past fiscal year.

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Shafer says there weren’t as many big jackpots on offer as had been expected, so people lost interest.

“That made a huge difference in our actual sales figures,” he told Moose FM.

However, Shafer believes last week’s jackpot will help to restore sales – and, at the moment, the figures for this fiscal year are brighter.

“Wins like this are a reminder that winners do happen in the NWT and, when one comes up as a large winner – like this potentially shared payment of a million dollars – then it’s definitely something that sparks the interest of our customers throughout the territory,” he said.

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“We are seeing a bounce back to more historic levels for us. If that continues within the NWT, then we’re definitely going to be on track to be able to continue to invest what we originally planned in sport, recreation, and physical activity.”

In pictures: 2015 Sport North award winners revealed

Shafer and his colleagues are now trying to find ways to change their funding formula, to protect organizations like Sport North as much as possible if sales take a similar dip in future.

“We’re in the process, right now, of determining what and how we’re going to be allocating funds for 2017 and beyond,” he said.

“This drop was unprecedented but, having had it happen, we definitely want to be mitigating that – or figuring out how we best plan for it, so we don’t have any pressures placed on organizations.

“We’re continually looking at expansion of the number of retailers selling lottery tickets, and exploring the possibility of new products, as well.”

Other moves to increase sales are already being made.

On Thursday, the council announced the cut-off time for lottery ticket sales will be extended to 8:30pm, beginning July 12.

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