Town of Hay River council will vote on a proposal to change its fees and charges bylaw on Feb. 21 which will allow Chase the Ace lottery users to pay by percentage of gross sales rather than set amounts.
Most of the council agreed at the Feb. 7 Standing Committee of Council that the change will substantially allow user groups who are awarded the lottery the ability to retain more money, especially in the cases when they don’t make strong weekly sales of tickets.
The new changes will allow Chase the Ace lottery holders to pay the town a five per cent fee based on gross weekly sales.
In the past, user groups have been charged based on a set fee structure, according to the bylaw.
Coun. Keith Dohey said during his multi-term service on council that he has wanted to adjust what fundraisers should be expected to pay. However, often he was unable to oppose it due to his involvement with the lottery in the past.
“I’ve never particularly been overly happy with that fee structure but I was either in conflict or in a minority anytime I would want to raise it,” he said, pointing out that he has run them with the curling club and Arctic Winter Games, where fees were overbearing and he has heard of similar challenges from other groups.
“I think with the different climate that we’re in right now with COVID and everything else where it’s more difficult to get people to come out to purchase tickets, it’s having an impact on the groups that are doing it.”
Coun. Peter Magill and Coun. Karen Wall, the two newest members of town council, expressed some skepticism over whether the town needs to charge user groups much, if at all, because they provide a service and don’t make a lot of money doing it.
The town argues that some money has to be paid as is standard in order to cover administrative costs of weekly reporting to the Government of the Northwest Territories and to pay for insurance and liabilities.
“I wonder if we’re putting undue stress on the few remaining service clubs and groups by looking to collect money from something that is essentially there to provide enough capital … to do what the town can’t do, especially like running a golf course or a ski club,” Magill said.
“Those jobs and the town offering of the Chase the Ace are in a bylaw and the contribution agreement covers the time that staff would be tasked to do jobs, according to that bylaw. I would think that we would want to make that fee as little as possible so those are those groups are very successful.”
Wall, who was the president of the ski club up to November, said the club was making very little this year to raise the question of why the town needed fees.
“At the beginning we weren’t even making any money and it just didn’t seem to make sense,” she said. “We were paying out more than we were making as a user group, it just kind of felt like it was a lot of money.”
The Hay River Golf Club and the Hay River Ski Club completed their 25th week of a joint fundraising on Feb. 18 with the Chase the Ace lottery.
The golf club is aiming to replace its roof and upgrade its washroom and flooring while the ski club is seeking money to put toward a new groomer and other equipment.
The prize pot currently sits at $17,206.50.
Chuck Lirette of the ski club said that often fees to the municipality have cut into the amounts raised for worthy causes at the golf and ski club that are otherwise supported by volunteers.
“We’re pleased in the sense that it’s going to reduce the lottery fees that we’ve been paying,” he said. “So that means more money coming back to the ski club on the golf club to help with all of the different equipment and projects out there that we’re trying to do.”
Lirette explained that the amounts that he has been paying the town have varied. For example, when the jackpot and weekly prize is between $7,000 and $20,000, the lottery fee is $300 per night.
That amount increases, however, once the pot prize goes beyond that range.
“As the total of the jackpot and the weekly prize goes beyond the $20,000 mark then the lottery fees were scheduled to increase to $1,500 a night,” Lirette explained.
“That means we would be paying $6,000 a month in lottery fees to the town. That’s a huge amount of money and would take up the majority of the profits that we’re seeing.”