AGLC appeals panel rejects Camrose Casino switch to Edmonton

A 'substantial' lack of support from the community and casino operators put paid to Capital City's hopes

Capital City Casinos has suffered a crushing blow in its quest to relocate its Camrose Resort Casino to Edmonton, after the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission (AGLC) doubled down on its original decision.

Attempts to move the casino from Camrose to Edmonton started back in September 2021, when a relocation application was submitted to the AGLC. The plan picked up momentum with the approval of a permit in August 2022 but, three months later, the Commission denied the relocation request.

Undeterred by its initial rejection, Capital City Casinos continued to drum up support for its proposal, receiving encouragement from various municipalities, including the County of Barhead, where reeve Douglas Drozd pointed the finger of blame at “political forces” in February.

Drozd even suggested that the AGLC had approved the decision before the interference of outside opponents.

Westlock County reeve Christine Wiese also backed the Capital City Casinos bid, calling for a “more equitable and fair gaming model” in May.

An appeal to review the AGLC’s original decision to reject the move was held on May 10 and lasted over two days but the decision – which reinforced its initial vote – was only released last week.

Explaining the decision, the appeals panel said the plan to relocate the casino didn’t have enough community support, with 98% of the initial 500 submissions stating their objection in writing.

“The panel finds that supporters of the application would decidedly have been able to do the same,” the decision stated.

“The panel finds that the lack of community support for the application was substantial and does not find that the notice or timeframe for response was inadequate.”

As previously reported, the cannibalization of existing casino operations and limited new gaming revenues were also cited as factors by dissenters of the project.

The explanation continued: “Further, the operators each cited the loss of revenue for their associated charities and the impacts the proposed relocation would have on the existing operators’ relationship with AGLC.

“As such, the panel finds a significant lack of support from existing casino operators in the Edmonton market.”

Laura Cunningham-Shpeley, Executive Director of the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, voiced her approval at the decision.

She said: “This is a real example of Edmonton nonprofits and organizations really stepping up and saying that this is going to have a negative impact on their ability to do the kind of programs and services for Edmontonians that they want to keep doing.”

However, Paul McLauchlin, President of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta, labelled the decision ‘disappointing’ for many of his members.

“The difference between rural gaming and urban gaming is so significant that I think everybody realizes it’s just not fair the way it’s designed right now,” he said, per CBC News.

Meanwhile, an AGLC spokesperson told CBC News that the regulator “will continue to work with government to monitor the strength and success of Alberta’s charitable gaming model”.

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