British Columbia's largest bingo and community gaming centre operator has been getting help from a former casino company executive and long-time provincial Liberal campaigner. In an interview with Public Eye, Playtime Community Gaming Centres Inc. chief executive officer Tom Nellis said Jacee Schaefer "has been closely aligned with myself for a number of years. And Jacee helps when we seek approval for slot machines" - from local governments.
According to a calendar entry exclusively obtained by Public Eye via a freedom of information request, Ms. Schaefer was scheduled to attend a February 9, 2006 meeting between then solicitor general John Les, Mr. Nellis and other centre and bingo hall owner/operators.
But, at the time, Mr. Nellis said Ms. Schaefer - who he describes as a "friend of our company" - wasn't being paid by Playtime. Although, beginning sometime in 2007, the company has "offered Jacee minimal compensation for the work she does for us."
In a subsequent interview, Ms. Schaefer - who couldn't, for health reasons, remember if she attended the meeting - said, "That's not quite what it is," when asked about her relationship with Playtime. But she declined to elaborate, directing further questions to Mr. Nellis. "I'm not talking about my personal business to some reporter I don't even know," she said. "Do you think I'm crazy?"
Also scheduled to attend that meeting was Patrick Kinsella - who has, according to Mr. Nellis, done free favours for the bingo hall and community gaming centre industry. Although Mr. Nellis can't remember him being there.
In 1997, Ms. Schaefer - the Liberals' 1996 election day chair - told The Vancouver Sun's John Mackie that Mr. Kinsella was one of her political mentors. Two years earlier, the newspaper's Vaughn Palmer also described Ms. Schaefer, as "a veteran of dozens of campaigns for Social Credit and the Conservatives."
At the time, according to Mr. Palmer, Ms. Schaefer was managing the door-to-door canvass for future solicitor general John Van Dongen's successful by-election campaign. And she did the same job during future healthy living and sport minister Mary Polak's unsuccessful 2004 by-election campaign.
Ms. Schaefer is the former media and government relations vice-president for Great Canadian Gaming Corp.