2016 was a record-setting year for the Ham Lake Area Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber donated about $125,000 to 55 organizations. The previous record was just over $100,000 in 2013. The money came from the proceeds the chamber collected at its four charitable gambling locations, according to Wendy Renner, the chamber’s charitable gambling manager.
“This is huge for us,” Renner said.
The contributions were evenly distributed amongst the 55 organizations. Alexandra House, Andover High School, Blaine High School, East Bethel Booster Days, Ham Lake Senior Center, North Anoka County Emergency Food Shelf, Patriot Guard and Wishes & More are just a few examples of the recipients.
The Ham Lake Area Chamber of Commerce has charitable gambling licenses at BootLeggers Saloon and Eatery in Nowthen, Ham Lake Lanes and Majestic Oaks in Ham Lake and Moonshine Whiskey Saloon and Eatery in East Bethel. The BootLeggers location was added as the chamber’s fourth location about one year and three months ago.
Adding another location means the chamber could hire more part-time staff to run bingo, pull-tabs and meat raffles at these locations. The chamber has 30 part-time staff for its charitable gambling program, according to Renner.
Renner credits this team for doing a great job of encouraging people to participate in the games. And she believes it makes a difference that the chamber contributes to so many groups that the community is familiar with.
“They see we’re giving to 55 organizations overall and not just one,” Renner said. “They’ve heard of them. They know what they’re playing for. With 55 organizations, they’ll have a passion for at least one of them.”
And although people gamble when the economy is down, they gamble more when the economy is in a better position, Renner said.
In 2011, the Ham Lake Area Chamber of Commerce was only able to donate $38,000. This was when the chamber had two sites.
Renner said the chamber of commerce is looking to add more sites in 2017 in order to collect more revenue.