A recently implemented Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority rule preventing local organizations from selling charity lottery tickets online to people outside their communities prevent the Humboldt Broncos’ Lottery of Cash from selling tickets to its charity cash draw online.
Last year, when no such rule was applied, the Broncos organization sold tickets to its charity lotto online and by phone. This year, when the team made its application to run the lotto, it was informed that an online portion is allowed only if sales are limited to Humboldt residents.
Charities such as STARS or a hospital foundation face no such restriction because they are provincial in scope.
Humboldt Broncos team president Jamie Brockman said it’s so early in the campaign that it’s hard to tell what effect, the change in how the SLGA enforces this rule will have, if any.
“Would it have been nice to have the online portion? Yes, but people across Saskatchewan do have the ability to phone in, so that’s 24/7, so it is convenient. Do I expect it to hurt? I would hope not, but I guess you never know,” he said.
The team hopes to sell 7,000 tickets; 1,000 sets of five tickets will be offered.
The potential for support to come from other parts of the province is real. A GoFundMe campaign that was started after the April 6, 2018 collision involving the team’s bus raised more than $15 million for the 13 survivors and families of the 16 people who died. It drew contributions from people across the province and around the world.
“A sellout is always the target,” Brockman said.
Funds raised by the Broncos’ lottery help pay for many of the team’s direct expenses, including transportation, equipment, rink time and meals. The SLGA also sets out how the funds can be used.
The rules being applied are not in the provincial Alcohol and Gaming Regulations, but in the Charitable Gaming Policy and Procedure Manual. The application of the SLGA’s existing policies on local gaming is a blend of different rules within the policy — there is no specific wording in the guide that says local raffles can only sell tickets online to residents of the community where the raffle is held. The last update to the policy was made in October 2017.
In an emailed statement, SLGA spokesman David Morris acknowledged the policies aren’t new.
“However, their application to raffles is becoming more relevant with increased access to technology,” he wrote. “Again, we know that technology continues to change and SLGA plans to do a broad review of the charitable gaming regulations during 2019-20.”
According to Morris, the review will include consulting with charities in an effort to find out what changes may help them fundraise through gaming with technology.
Morris noted that in recent years, rules have changed to allow charities to advertise and accept payments online. At the same time, there are hundreds of Saskatchewan groups that raise funds through charitable gaming in their communities, he wrote.
“The introduction of electronic technology to sell tickets provides the ability for groups to potentially take support from one community to another. SLGA’s rules are in place to ensure charities have the ability to compete fairly for support for their charitable activities.”
From a technology standpoint, trying to geo-block ticket sales in order to reject purchases made by non-Humboldt residents would be a “nightmare,” according to the company that provides the software to the Broncos to run the charity lottery.
For example, it would be hard to define where Humboldt’s borders are, noted Sean O’Hagan, CEO of 50:50 Event Consultants.
The change came as a “shock” when the Broncos organization submitted an application to the SLGA and the regulator informed them about the restrictions on online sales, he said, adding he initially thought it was an error in their application.
“It’s pretty clear how they define a gaming event. So, basically they’re saying that the Humboldt Broncos is not a provincial organization, and they’d be right how they defined it,” he said. The policy defines a charitable gaming event as a “bingo event at an association bingo hall” that is licensed to host things like bingos or raffles.
O’Hagan wrote a letter about the situation to the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and posted a copy of it to the Tap 50:50 website.
“Any small charity is going to be in the same boat,” he said.