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Privatization and gaming : the impact upon the non-profit social service sector Fletcher-Gordon, Lynda


The demise of Keynesianism and the advent of monetarism has had a profound impact on the Canadian 'welfare state'. In British Columbia, as in other provinces, monetarist policies have included a 'down-sizing' of government, and a resurrection of a strategy of privatization in the social service sector. In some instances, privatization has meant abandonment; that is, the government has both shed its responsibility for providing many public sector social services and either reduced or eliminated funds which were directed into the non-profit sector through the system of 'contracting-out'. With the loss of revenue, many non-profit social service agencies have been forced to seek alternative sources of funding. The contents of newspaper stories and other articles indicated that some had turned to gaming in order to raise funds. Therefore, recent developments in the gaming industry in British Columbia were explored in order to provide some insight into their relevance for, and impact on, the non-profit social service sector. In addition, a survey was undertaken in order to determine the impact of these developments on a sample of non-profit social service agencies in the Greater Vancouver area. The results indicate that certain trends are emerging across the non-profit sector. Agencies reported an increased demand for services and, for some, the proceeds from either bingos or casinos have been crucial in both maintaining current levels of services and providing other benefits. The implications of this development are explored; for example, in some agencies, fund-raising has reduced the staff hours spent in direct service while otherwise increasing workloads; some agencies are becoming more 'entrepreneurial' in order to provide necessary social services; and, it may be that certain client groups are paying for their own social service programs. While non-profit social service agencies are turning to gaming in order to provide programs and services which the government will no longer support, the government's public statements regarding the future of the gaming industry, and its actions in this area, have been ambiguous. On the one hand, policy-makers have made public statements to the effect that there will be no extension of legalized gambling beyond that which is provided by non-profit groups. On the other hand, the government is moving to increase its gaming revenues through direct means, such as establishing casinos, and indirect means, such as increasing licence fees levied on non-profit organizations wishing to conduct gaming events. It is contended that neither privatization nor gambling are 'immoral'. However, what is perhaps problematic is the recent marriage of the two phenomena. By reducing direct services, as well as curtailing funding to the non-profit sector, the government has restrained its expenditures. When non-profit organizations turn to gaming, they become a source of revenue for the government while simultaneously providing the vital social services which the government has abandoned.

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