Victoria mayor muses on combining casino, sewage plant

It could give a whole new meaning to a royal flush.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps has mused publicly about the possibility of combining a casino with a new regional sewage treatment plant.

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The B.C. Lottery Corporation is considering a second casino closer to downtown Victoria than the existing one in View Royal and 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.

On Thursday, Victoria councillors directed staff to seek more information from the lottery corporation.

Helps wondered if existing city policy would prohibit a casino from being located in Rock Bay. “It’s a consideration, a mixed-use facility. It’s a consideration … so one of the things we need to know is the timing” for building a second casino in the region, she said.

Casinos can mean big money for local governments. Host communities are eligible for 10 per cent of a casino’s net take — millions of dollars a year in new non-tax revenue.

Great Canadian Gaming’s View Royal casino generated about $4 million for local governments in 2014-15. Under a cost-sharing agreement hammered out before the casino was built, View Royal and Langford each take 45 per cent. The remaining 10 per cent is shared among Colwood, Esquimalt, Highlands, Sooke and Metchosin.

Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt said no matter how much potential revenue a casino could bring, he doesn’t support the idea “of profiting or getting revenue off of people’s addictions.”

“I don’t support gaming, generally. I think it disproportionately ends up being a tax on the poor. It can be a very lucrative revenue stream for local government and senior levels of government, but I don’t think it’s money we should take. And we should build our treasury through other funding sources,” Isitt said.

Coun. Geoff Young countered that Victoria is being forced to deal with any number of social issues “that are being thrust upon us.”

“For us to say we will address the social issues that cost us money, but we won’t take the ones that may produce some revenue, is going to create a real problem for the taxpayers,” Young said.

Coun. Pam Madoff suggested casinos are better suited to suburban areas. “They want lots of parking and they want it to be free,” she said.

Madoff said the city’s casino policy needs updating as it identifies the Crystal Gardens as a possible casino site.

“It certainly concerns me that the Crystal Garden is identified as one that could be a potential site. To have that on the list as we move forward engaging with the provincial government, even for more information, is very concerning for me,” Madoff said.

West Shore municipal politicians have expressed concerns the region isn’t big enough to support a second casino. But the lottery corporation says a third-party consultant specializing in the casino industry analyzed such factors as population, tourism, traffic patterns and player data, and found that an opportunity exists for a second facility.

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