Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 29, 2004
Knights to pull plug on casinos
Alberta/Northwest Territories K of C gave away $2M in '02
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The Alberta Knights of Columbus are saying farewell to casinos as a fundraising method. Mickey Casavant, state deputy of the 15,000-member Catholic order of men, made the announcement March 24.
He said the Knights would fundraise through methods that encourage family unity and community involvement.
Currently the order is putting together a six-member committee that will look at alternate ways of fundraising.
"We have taken the position that we want to get out of involvement with casinos in the next two to three years but it might even be sooner," Casavant said.
"We are a Catholic family-oriented organization and we've come to realize that even though there is tremendous money to be made through casinos, there is a big price to pay. It really conflicts with our ideals of what the Knights are intended to be or who we are."
Casavant said the two-year timeline was adopted to give councils involved in casinos time to fulfill their financial commitments and to plan alternate fundraising methods. Some councils have already decided to terminate their involvement in casinos.
The Knights' withdrawal from casinos also meets the goal of Alberta bishops who want parishes to get out of the casino business. Last year Calgary Bishop Fred Henry asked all Church organizations to refrain from holding casinos and bingos. He gave two parishes that rely on bingo for operating revenues until 2005 to fall in line.
Alberta dioceses began cracking down on bingos and casinos as fundraising methods about a decade ago, arguing that they have become more than entertainment and are a threat to people's livelihoods.
In their 1998 pastoral letter, The False Eden of Gambling, the bishops said gambling reflects neither Gospel values nor Christian inspiration as many marriages and families have been hurt or destroyed by the practice.
"If we feel so strongly about maintaining strong family unity and we support casinos then I think we are giving the wrong message to the community," Casavant said.
In 2002 the Knights of Alberta/Northwest Territories donated more than $2 million to charities and about 60 per cent of that money came from casinos. About half of the Knights' 150 councils are involved in casinos. A council can easily raise over $60,000 on a weekend in one of Edmonton's major casinos.
"It's big money and quick money," Casavant said. "But this is not what the Knights are intended to be. We are intended to do charity work through giving of our time and talents and not by handing over money."
Casavant said much of the money raised through casinos has been spent on parish projects. Now the Knights will have to say "no" to some requests.
The organization is not planning to get out of bingos with the same haste, Casavant said. "Even though bingos are a means of gambling, there is a large component of socializing."
Casavant admitted there is opposition to the casino move from a handful of councils that have "a dependency on quick and easy money (from) casinos."
Raising lots of money through casinos quickly gives the appearance that councils are successful but that's not totally true, the state deputy said. "We were not founded to become brokers for the disbursement of funds; we are there to give of ourselves and to do charitable work.
"As Bishop Henry has said, the Alberta bishops want the knights' time, some of their talent and a little bit of their treasure and sometimes I think we put that backwards."
Letter to the Editor - 04/26/04