How the City of Yellowknife governs “chase the ace” and other lottery activities – and the fees charged for lottery licences – is under review, and your opinion is sought.
City staff began reviewing Yellowknife’s lottery licence bylaw earlier this year after a dance society said City Hall was taking too much money in exchange for the granting of licences.
Gail Leonardis – from the Beats Dance Society, which raises funds for Bella Beats Dance Troupe trips and competitions – told councillors in February the City’s fees were a “hard pill to swallow.”
Leonardis said 44 percent of the society’s earnings from a chase the ace fundraiser went to the City in licensing fees – estimated ultimately to be more than $17,000 handed over.
The bylaw governs the regulation of, and fees for, lotteries conducted within city limits – including bingos, raffles, and similar activities. Chase the ace, which has gained in popularity in recent years and netted winners hundreds of thousands of dollars, is also governed by the bylaw.
The problem with the bylaw, Leonardis said, is that for every chase the ace night the non-profit runs, it must pay both a $50 application fee and an additional licensing fee – which ranges from $50 to $1,500, calculated on the size of the total jackpot.
Chase the ace rules, Leonardis explained, dictate that the total jackpot rises each week by 25 percent of ticket sales. The remaining 75 percent of sales is split between the organizers (50 percent) and the person who has their ticket drawn for a chance to draw the ace of spades (25 percent).
Theoretically, 52 chase the ace nights could be held and right now, for each night, a separate lottery licence would be needed. If the jackpot rises over $20,000, the organizers would end up paying a $1,500 licence fee for every night with a jackpot over this amount.
The City’s director of corporate services, Sharolynn Woodward, has acknowledged the bylaw is outdated. For example, it predates activities like chase the ace.
When the issue was raised at a February city council meeting, Leonardis received support from several councillors to have the City address it sooner rather than later.
Councillor Steve Payne compared the City taking licensing fees to “giving out Halloween candy then beating up the kid and taking half their candy back.”
At the same meeting, City administrator Sheila Bassi-Kellett said the issue was a priority and would be addressed this year.
Organizers of past chase the ace fundraisers have suggested the City could instead charge a revised fee as a percentage of the jackpot. Leonardis, presenting an alternative, asked the City to base its fee on money awarded each week to the person drawing the winning ticket, not the jackpot amount.