For the Bingo industry, it was a longer process to establish a central provincial fund. The AGCO implemented a new revenue model for bingo in May 2007 and one of the key elements was to mandate that a portion of the proceeds be set aside for marketing and promotion. The Registrar directs that 10 percent of win be set aside for marketing and promotion with 2 percent of these monies being directed to the Ontario Bingo Development Fund. This fund has been structured as a separate non-profit corporation with a Board of Directors representing charities and bingo hall owners. The regulators (AGCO and municipalities) provide advisors to the Board. This fund is significant with a little over three million dollars a year being accumulated. A strategic plan for the fund was developed and incorporation has recently been completed. Initiatives are just now underway with the all important consumer and market research beginning. This piece will be key in shaping the work plan for the coming year. The fund organized a major game event for the industry in November to bring the industry together and demonstrate the marketing and branding potential that we have through this collective process. Sixty-two bingo centers were linked together for a large $200,000 jackpot game financed by the fund. The spokesperson for this event was Don Cherry and the fund provided significant media coverage across the province, as well as point of sale materials. Many bingo centres took the opportunity to build on the provincial promotions and there are great ideas to be shared across the industry.
As far as we are aware, this concept of an industry development fund for charitable gaming is unique in Canada. It is critical to make sure you have an appropriate governance structure with balanced representation and ongoing opportunities for stakeholders to have input and receive regular communication. The challenge, always, is to manage expectations and to find ways of encouraging and supporting the industry to use the tools, resources, and information effectively. The Ontario experience has been that centralized development funds can be of tremendous benefit to the charitable gaming industry. By pooling industry resources, there are significant opportunities to implement strategic initiatives and carry out research that will benefit everyone. This process has greatly fostered the building of cooperation and collaboration between charities, the private sector, and the regulator. We have had the luxury of having our provincial regulator, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, very much at the forefront of this concept and based on our experience to-date, would highly recommend this approach to any charitable gaming jurisdiction.
By Lynn Cassidy, Executive Director of the Ontario Charitable Gaming Association