The city is asking for too much in lottery licensing fees from Chase the Ace, says an organizer of a Yellowknife dance group.

Gail Leonardis says Beats Dance Society, which fundraises for the Bella Beats Dance Troupe, has been paying $1,500 to the city in licensing fees for each Chase the Ace night held since the jackpot went over $20,000. She says this is a ‘hard pill to swallow’ for the society.

“We wish to be clear that we are more than happy to provide lottery license fees for these events. We just feel that taking one-half of our potential earnings is excessive and a more equitable distribution could be done,” she told council Monday.

According to city bylaw 4436, if the total prize amount is between $20,000 and $50,000, the fee paid to the city is $1,500 plus a $50 to $100 licence application fee.

City of Yellowknife’s lottery licencing fees. Submitted photo

Leonardis provided an example of a Chase the Ace night where the jackpot is over $20,000 and $6,000 is raised that night: $1,500 goes to the person who bought the ticket drawn, $1,500 goes back into the jackpot if no one draws the ace and $3,000 goes to the organization. Out of this $3,000, half would go to paying the licensing fee.

Leonardis suggests the city base the fee instead on the amount that is awarded each week. In the $6,000 example, this would mean $1,500 is the total prize amount and $50 is the licensing fee.

Director of Corporate Services at the city Sharolynn Woodward says the city’s bylaw is not designed to handle these types of fundraisers. One problem is that each Chase the Ace night has to have a separate lottery license each week, meaning up to 52 licences might be needed for a full Chase the Ace fundraiser.

“This is far from ideal but we have to recognize as well that the bylaws that surround the operation and governance of this activity are fairly old and predate anything like Chase the Ace or any of these ongoing events,” she says.

Several councillors say they were unaware of this issue. “If that’s the case it’s the equivalent of giving out Halloween candy then beating up the kid and taking half their candy back,” Councillor Steve Payne says. City administrator Sheila Bassi-Kellett replied the city is aware of this issue and has it as a priority to address in 2019.

Councillors Cynthia Mufandaedza and Julian Morse supported it being addressed by administration sooner rather than later.

Leonardis, who has one daughter dancing at Bella since she was three, says parents pay thousands of dollars each year for their children to dance. The troupe’s 33 members also travel to competitions in the South and the money raised by the society goes to some of these costs.

“As you can imagine, the cost for all of this travel, hotel rooms, transportation and competition fees is enormous.”

The Beats Dance Society’s Chase the Ace jackpot is at $26,399 with 18 cards left in the deck. If the ace of spades is not pulled this Friday, the jackpot will continue to grow and with it the licensing fees paid to the city.