Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 15, 1999
Questions about gambling
Calgary bishop says health care groups face 'tough choices'
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Those looking for answers from Bishop Frederick Henry on gambling proceeds may have to look elsewhere.
The Calgary bishop was at the Tough Choices: Ethics workshop March 5 not to solve the moral issues of accepting provincial lottery revenues, but to "set the table."
"We've got to ask the questions and maybe be embarrassed by our inability to answer them, but we have to ask them," said Henry to a group of more than 50 health care workers and administrators.
"I'm not going to sit down with Ralph Klein and say we have to get rid of all the VLTs in the province. That's up to someone else to do. My job as a bishop is to teach and to say this is wrong and that there needs to be some action."
Henry was part of a panel of speakers, many of whom were from the health care industry. They focused on possible ethical issues arising in the continuing care environment.
Many of these non-profit organizations and facilities rely on government grants and subsidies, some of which come from lottery funds.
The workshop was sponsored by several non-profit healthcare organizations, the Good Samaritan Society, Youville Home, St. Joseph's Auxiliary Hospital, Alberta Catholic Health Corporation and the Bethany Group.
Even prior to his installation as Calgary's bishop a year ago, Henry has spoken strongly against VLTs in casinos and restaurants. He is part of a group of Church leaders, business people and citizens behind an anti-VLT campaign.
"They (government) use the term 'gaming' rather than gambling," Henry said. "I always wince. The term gaming is used over gambling . . . a well-conceived terminology of acceptance."
Henry notes that gambling in itself is not morally wrong. Parents and children make small nickel wagers in family card games. Churches sell raffle tickets for homemade quilts. Charity groups hold casino night as part of their annual fundraising efforts.
"It is morally acceptable if the money that is wagered is not used to support a family or needed to care for one's children . . . and that there is an equal chance of winning and losing," Henry said.
Henry and the health care administrators at the workshop admit VLTs and the growing numbers of bingo emporiums have impacted the fundraising efforts of some charity groups. They find themselves needing to be more creative and having a higher return in their raffles and casino nights to compete.
Organizations like the Caritas Hospital Foundation have faced the tug-of-war between morals and increased funding for facility operations. The foundation's board members have voted not to accept lottery revenues, but not without dealing with their own dilemmas.
"The moral issue becomes, should we seek (gambling) revenues to benefit a society that was harmed by gambling," said Schwabe, the foundation's executive director.
Schwabe estimated there are more than 7,400 charities in Alberta, many of which receive such provincial grants.
"If none of these charities accept the funding because of ethical and moral issues, where will the money go?"
Financial stability should only be part of the equation for some of these charities and organizations who say their bread and butter depend on government funding, said Henry. As much as money makes the world go round in some people's minds, there is an alternative way of thought on this issue.
"The question is if there is enough time being put into mission, as much as there is for fundraising," Henry said. "As we do the mission stuff, the financial stuff will also start to look up.
"If some people say that without the financial help, they will shut down, . . . I'm not sure if closure is the worse of all evils."