Demise of ‘Reel Raffle’ could gut bass tourney

The chairman of the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship admitted to town council Monday night that the annual event may have to be scaled down this year if it can’t get at least $10,000—money organizers won’t be taking in from the “Reel Raffle” this year.
“Last Monday, we spent most of our directors’ meeting sharing ideas and developing an action plan,” noted FFCBC chair Doug Cain.
“We looked at options to further reduce expense by cutting back on non-revenue generating events and activities, and cancelling new events under development for teenagers,” he added.
Affected areas could include Daytime Land, the Kid-Pro tournament, kids’ paddleboat fishing, free entertainment, and site and fish care improvements.
“The effect of reducing expenses by eliminating non-revenue activities would essentially gut the community festival side of the event and disenfranchise our kids,” said Cain.
“However, this is a double-edged sword, as such reductions would also result in lower revenue from the food court and may cause current sponsors to reconsider their support,” he warned.
Cain added the FFCBC also is looking at increasing revenue by recruiting new sponsors or “growing” existing ones, as well as charging admission to “Daytime Land” activities, contrary to its philosophy to never do so.
The non-profit group also will be applying for support from every level of government, such as FedNor and the Trillium Foundation.
The FFCBC found out Feb. 16 that it could not run a “Reel Raffle,” which after the cost of the lottery licence, prizes, and marketing, generated close to $10,000 last year, which went towards kids’ events, Daytime Land, and family entertainment at the bass tourney.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario had denied its application, ruling the FFCBC wasn’t a charitable organization.
“The ruling was totally unexpected and comes as a complete reversal of what was anticipated,” said Cain.
“The late date of this unsettling decision precludes the possibility of launching an appeal, or restructuring the organization to meet the new interpretation of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario guidelines,” he added.
Cain noted the cost to operate the bass tourney exceeded revenues by $16,659 last year.
“We drew down our ‘rainy day’ reserve fund to cover the deficit and planned to replace that money this year to ensure the ongoing financial stability of the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship,” he told council.
“This commitment is factored into our current budget mainly through reducing expense and by growing our income,” he added. “This year, we budgeted net proceeds of $25,000 from the ‘Reel Raffle’ lottery draw.”
As first reported in yesterday’s Daily Bulletin, the FFCBC made three requests to the Town of Fort Frances on Monday night:
•a donation of $10,000 to be used exclusively for kids’ and family events (this is to cover the loss of not being able to run a “Reel Raffle” this year);
•passing a proclamation designating the bass tourney as a “significant community festival beneficial to the Town of Fort Frances and its citizens”; and
•taking political action to restructure the legislation and broaden the licensing requirements of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.
Council referred the funding request to the Administration and Finance executive committee for a recommendation.
While council already had proclaimed the bass tourney a “community event” at its Feb. 14 meeting, it agreed to reword that declaration to satisfy the wording Cain requested.
And while council agreed to the lobbying effort in principle, that request also was referred to the Administration and Finance executive committee for a recommendation.
Coun. Tannis Drysdale agreed to do the necessary research, then draft a letter asking for a change to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s guidelines.
This would be sent on to the Rainy River District Municipal Association, the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association, and ultimately the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
She noted the FFCBC’s predicament with the gaming licence “was not a Fort Frances problem.”
“This is a problem in Dryden, in southwestern Ontario, in Haliburton, right across the province,” she noted.
“I was not happy when I heard about this,” Coun. Drysdale added. “The work your committee does, and your tournament, is so important to our community. And whatever we can do to be there in support of it, we will.
While changing the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s rules is a long-term solution, Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft suggested, in the short-term, the FFCBC could get around the regulations by having a service club run the “Reel Raffle” and then have the club donate the proceeds back to the tournament.
Cain noted there’s been talk of the sort with the gaming commission.
“I basically asked the question, ‘If we find an applicant, will the project as we’ve budgeted it in the past be eligible for a licence?
“We haven’t heard back yet,” he said.