Lottery Corp. mulling casino near downtown Victoria

In what could be a financial jackpot for the host community, B.C. Lottery Corporation is considering a second casino closer to downtown Victoria than the existing one in View Royal.

But the idea has West Shore politicians worried that the region isn’t big enough to support two casinos.

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“We question whether the amount of revenue that they feel [BCLC] is missing is, in fact, in this marketplace and whether or not by opening a second facility what you’re going to do is create two mediocre facilities,” said View Royal Mayor David Screech.

BCLC spokeswoman Laura Piva-Babcock responded that “it would not be in BCLC’s best interests to consider a second facility if there were no additional market to serve.”

View Royal’s casino generated $69.3 million in revenue in 2014-15, down from $70.4 million the previous year, BCLC figures show.

BCLC has asked six communities — Victoria, Esquimalt, Saanich, Oak Bay and the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations — if they would host a casino smaller than View Royal’s.

Host communities are eligible for 10 per cent of a casino’s net take — millions of dollars a year in new non-tax revenue.

Community interest will be gauged until Dec. 11.

Screech said Great Canadian Casinos has permits for a $20-million expansion that would add a theatre and restaurant, helping it to attract the same type of top-flight entertainment at its River Rock Casino in Richmond.

But, he said, Great Canadian has told him expansion plans are on hold until the question of a second casino is settled.

Screech said a “flagship” casino with a restaurant and a theatre would be a substantial economic generator for the West Shore and the whole region.

Langford Mayor Stew Young agreed.

“If they put another one in, it’s going to kill that [expansion] plan for sure. It doesn’t make sense to me,” Young said.

“You’re just going to have two small crappy ones. They should really do one big one, then the tourists and everyone else will go there.”

Piva-Babcock did not respond directly to word of Great Canadian putting plans on hold, but said View Royal “is and will remain the primary gaming facility for Greater Victoria.” A third-party consultant specializing in the casino industry analyzed population, tourism, traffic patterns and player data, and found that an opportunity exists for a second facility.

Local governments are receiving about $4 million for 2014-15 from the View Royal casino. View Royal and Langford each take 45 per cent of that. The remaining 10 per cent is shared by Esquimalt, Highlands, Sooke and Metchosin.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said she can think of at least three locations in her municipality where a casino would fit.

“I think because we are close to the core, we are definitely a good spot and should be considered,” Desjardins said, adding that any decision would have to be made by council.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said her city would be open to the idea of a casino, but that there would have to be a public process. The city’s zoning regulation bylaw allows for one casino in the city, but guidelines state that, among other conditions, it can’t stand alone and must be part of a mixed-use development such as a hotel, convention centre or arts facility.

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen said a casino “would be a complete non-starter in Oak Bay.”

“I don’t think it would be a good fit. We’re a fully built-out compact community [that’s] very walkable. Casinos tend to rely on people driving there from afar,” Jensen said.

Saanich Coun. Leif Wergeland, who was on council when Saanich took a stand against allowing a casino in the district, said he would be opposed, but it would be a council decision.

Saanich Coun. Susan Brice said she supports “the prospect of an appropriately located gaming centre in Saanich and the revenue that will flow to our taxpayers.”

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