The province of Alberta in Canada has extended closing time for blackjack to 3 a.m. from 2 a.m., and while there is some opposition to the change, it comes from a seemingly unlikely source.
Gambling Laws in Alberta
Historically, Alberta has had gambling laws in place that are reminiscent of alcohol-related regulation. For instance, one cannot buy or be served alcohol after 2 a.m., and it has not been legal to play games like blackjack and poker after 2 a.m. either. The recent law change extends that limit to 3 a.m., which means that casinos and similar establishment can now keep their poker and blackjack tables open for a total of 17 consecutive hours: 10 a.m. to 3 a.m.
Traditional opposition to gambling leniency in Alberta has been relatively quiet on this front. After all, such groups have to pick their battles, and the change from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. is not that big. Furthermore, only the biggest Alberta casinos were prepared to take advantage of the law change right away. With additional wages to be paid and no alcohol allowed to be served, small casinos were not even certain that that the added hour was worthwhile to them.
Where the Opposition Came From
The opposition that has been present has been from community groups that use blackjack legally as a fundraiser. The issue, according to Oliver Community League president, Jarrett Campbell, is that it is already difficult to find volunteers who are willing to stay until 2 a.m.; finding volunteers willing to stay until 3 a.m. will be a great challenge, and if such groups are not able to deliver a similar product to what the casinos offer, fundraising will suffer.
The Alberta government says that it did not make the decision lightly. In fact, the research that preceded the decision took into account the province’s more than 7,500 religious and charitable organizations that have licenses to host blackjack and similar games.
The government also promised to continue monitoring the situation. If donations suffer due to the change, then additional changes can be put in place. Currently there are strict rules regarding compensation for volunteers, and if those regulations were relaxed, for example, then it might be easier for the groups to return to normal volunteer levels.