Vancouver considers more gambling at city's two casinos

Vancouver Sun
Vancouver considers more gambling at city's two casinos
Wild Casino

The B.C. Lottery Corporation wants Vancouver to lift or amend its 13-year-old moratorium on the expansion of gaming in the city.

According to the city’s general manager of Arts, Culture and Community Services Margaret Wittgens, there has been recent interest from the BCLC to expand gambling at the city’s two casinos — Parq and Hastings Racecourse.

“BCLC is seeking to expand gambling opportunities at the Parq and Hastings Racecourse casinos by potentially increasing the number of slot machines and table games,” Wittgens wrote in a report going to council’s committee on policy and strategic priorities on May 8.

Currently, the Parq casino in Yaletown has 600 slot machines and 61 tables, while East Vancouver’s Hastings Racecourse has 446 slot machines and no gaming tables. Parq has permission to operate 75 tables. Hastings Racecourse has permits to operate 600 slot machines.

In the 2022/2023 financial year the city earned $7.2 million as its cut of gaming revenue from the two casinos. This is set at 10 per cent of total gaming revenue and so changes each year. In 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 the figure was over $10 million, while the city earned nothing in the 2020/2021 year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city reports states that BCLC’s expansion wishes would bring an additional $2.5-5 million a year into city coffers.

Most of the gambling revenue that goes to the city comes from Parq (88 per cent in 2022/2023). 

As a result of the BCLC interest, Wittgens and city manager Paul Mochrie are recommending council amend the moratorium to consider expansion at the two casinos as long as BCLC provides an impact assessment on the proposed expansion.

The moratorium was approved in April 2011, under former mayor Gregor Robertson, as a way to get the provincial government and BCLC to “undertake(s) a comprehensive public consultation on the issue of expanded gambling in the City of Vancouver.”

“To date, the province and BCLC have not completed the work set out in the moratorium that must be completed before the moratorium ends, so the moratorium remains in effect in the city,” Wittgens said.

Staff have come up with four options for council to approach the BCLC expansion request. They are:

  • Amend the moratorium to only accept an expansion application for one or both of the existing casinos, accompanied by a health, safety and economic impact assessment.
  • Lift the moratorium entirely for new and existing casinos, accompanied by the impact assessment.
  • Keep the moratorium in place.
  • Direct staff to lead and resource a full assessment and analysis of the public policy implications of amending or lifting the moratorium and report back to council.

Wittgens and Mochrie recommend council backs option one because it allows council to consider applications only from existing operations.

“Staff recommend Option 1, enabling council consideration of the impacts of individual applications brought forward to expand gambling in Vancouver, while restricting the scope of those requests to existing facilities,” the report states.

In 2011, the city rejected an application for a 1,500-slot casino on the Vancouver waterfront.

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