To fund the new arenas, Wildrose proposes setting up digital lotteries in 1,000 bars and pubs across Alberta. For Keno Alberta.
Rexall Place and Scotiabank Saddledome, homes of the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames hockey teams, are showing their age. Rexall is pushing 40 and the Saddledome is 30 years old. For five years, Alberta’s politicians and business leaders have grappled with finding a way to replace the aging facilities.
Danielle Smith, leader of Alberta’s Wildrose party, contends that new hockey arenas are critically important to Alberta and that Wildrose has a solution.
“In order to keep pace with other world-leading cities, core municipal infrastructure such as this must be built,” Smith commented.
To fund the new arenas, Wildrose proposes setting up digital lotteries in 1,000 bars and pubs across Alberta. Although it is somewhat confusing to call a lottery Keno Alberta, that is its name. It would cash in by using the Oilers and Flames brands. Smith says the lottery would raise approximately $20 million a year for each city, which would be channeled directly to Edmonton and Calgary, not to the Oilers or Flames organizations.
Although success is contingent upon support from the teams, the two cities and the Alberta government, Smith says the Keno lottery bearing the Oilers and Flames team logos could raise nearly $200 million a year. A good deal of the $200M would be paid out to lottery winners and about $9 million would go to charities through the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission.
At present, the lottery proposal is under consideration by the two NHL teams, the government, and the mayors of Edmonton and Calgary.
“These projects are too important to our major cities not to explore every option,” Smith said. “We believe this could be the solution that fills the funding gap while respecting taxpayers at the same time.”
The city of Edmonton and Oilers owner Daryl Katz have attempted to collaborate on a $478 million proposal for a hockey arena to replace Rexall. For five years their attempts have failed, mostly over a funding shortfall. Both governments, Edmonton and Alberta, stand adamantly opposed to using tax dollars on the project.
The Keno lottery has other critics. Alberta Finance Minister Doug Horner believes that while the proposal is interesting, it won’t raise enough money. He stated that the Alberta government is discussing the idea of a sports book lottery that would fund building projects, but that the idea is very new.
Alberta Premier Alison Redford agrees with Horner, and said the government idea is a way of combining lottery money to which would be available to all municipalities for cultural and recreational infrastructure projects.
“The problem with Keno is that it doesn’t raise as much money as would be required to fund that kind of infrastructure,” said Redford.
The community of Medicine Hat has its own hockey arena problems, and Medicine Hat Alderman Graham Kelly resents the Keno lottery funding strategy.
“I don’t understand why people in Medicine Hat should help fund arenas for the Flames and Oilers,” Kelly told the Medicine Hat News.
“It makes sense to me that if this benefits Calgary and Edmonton, the gambling funds would come from Calgary and Edmonton.”
Edmonton and Calgary Mayors Stephen Mandel and Naheed Nenshi were not available for comment.