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On the Use of Casino Funds for Catholic Education

February 26, 2013

As many of you have heard, the current Archbishop of Edmonton Richard Smith has advised our Catholic schools to stop using casino funds to purchase such things as Smart Boards and basketballs.  He believes that raising funds for schools in this way is immoral as it causes many social ills.  According to a 2003 study for the Alberta Gaming Research Institute (http://dspace.ucalgary.ca/bitstream/1880/1628/1/Gambling_and_crime.pdf) there is not enough evidence to conclude that gambling causes higher instances of crime however it does suggest the following:

“gambling and crime are connected in several ways, namely: (1) addicted gamblers commit crimes—many of the gambling related family disputes and suicides and over one-half the gambling-related frauds, where charges were laid, were precipitated by one person’s problem gambling behavior; (2) major gambling venues attract opportunistic criminals looking to exploit the scene via activities such as cheating at play, counterfeiting, money laundering, theft, and fraud, plus deal with “undesirables” who disrupt play through vandalism, fighting, and public intoxication; and (3) the existence of popular forms of illegal gambling such as Internet wagering, bookmaking and common gaming houses.”

As an example of the connection between gambling, crime, and social ills, on January 9, 2013 the Edmonton Journal published a story about a local woman Nicole Ann Lemire 49 who was sent to prison for 2 years for embezzling $200,000 from her employer Titan Construction in order to support her gambling addiction.   Another example is from a friend who recently confided that one of his parents had a gambling addiction which was not connected with a crime but which tore his family apart.

These are the social ills that the Archbishop is concerned our Catholic schools may be contributing to through casino fundraising.  I have to say, that as a parent I struggle with knowing that fundraising for my child’s educational needs could have negative social implications.  I also struggle with what I am teaching my children if I am involved in something that uses one person’s weakness for my own gain.

So where are we going to find $6 million in revenue if the ECSD Board of Trustees were to disallow money from casinos to be used for school purposes?  I know that my sons’ school depended heavily on casino funds for the recently installed wifi system that was required for the school to achieve Alberta Education’s goal of creating 21st Century Learners.

Personally, I think that if our schools require $6 million to offer our children a quality education, it should be coming from the provincial government.  Especially if the government is stating that one of it’s goals is to create 21st Century Learners but does not provide the funds to purchase the expensive technology to achieve this goal.  If however, the government is not willing to properly fund our schools, then it is left to parents to find additional funds  through fundraising.

It is important to note that our current ECSD Board of Trustees has not yet voted on this issue.  Our schools have depended on casino funds ($171 per student per year) for a long time to fund important equipment, projects and programs.  It would be difficult to take these funds away immediately without offering adequate fundraising alternatives. Parents, trustees, and the Catholic Archdiocese must work together to replace casino funds so that our schools do not suffer and at the same time provide our children with an example of how we are called as Christians to treat the vulnerable of our society. I believe that if we put our heads together we can find creative and ethical ways to replace casino fundraising.

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