View Royal casino to add 600-seat theatre, more slots, buffet

The View Royal casino will more than double in size with a major upgrade that includes a 600-seat entertainment venue and 350 more slot machines and electronic games.

There will also be 12 new table games with live dealers, to add to the current 15, and new dining venues such as a buffet, casual lounge and bar.

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The project, which will add 42,000 square feet to the complex, is expected to begin in 2017 and be completed in the first half of 2018. The cost has not been disclosed.

The casino opened in 2001 and is run by Great Canadian Gaming. It generated $71.8 million in revenue in the 2015-16 fiscal year, with $4.1 million going to West Shore municipalities.

Of that, View Royal and Langford get about 45 per cent each, with the remaining 10 per cent shared among five other jurisdictions, said View Royal Mayor David Screech.

Previous expansion plans worth $20 million were put on hold last fall when BCLC announced that it was considering a second local casino.

Another casino is planned for Victoria, which beat out other local jurisdictions in a selection process overseen by the B.C. Lottery Corp.

Screech called the View Royal expansion project good news.

“I’m thrilled with the announcement and the confirmation that View Royal clearly will remain the premier gaming facility in the region,” he said.

“The revenue and the spinoff benefits for our communities will be significant.”

The most recent annual payment to View Royal was about $1.8 million, money destined for such things as capital projects and grants for community organizations.

Screech praised the efforts of BCLC and Great Canadian Gaming in working with View Royal.

“It’s been a long road to get here and to get all parties to agree on the size and the shape of the expansion. It’s a real accomplishment.”

BCLC president and CEO Jim Lightbody said the expansion is meant to give customers what they want.

“Now we have the opportunity not only to provide a variety of games, but also at different bet limits,” he said. “So people can now play at a $5 blackjack table, then other people can go to another table and play $25 or $50 a hand.”

The entertainment venue will be a positive addition to the West Shore, Lightbody said.

“There’s opportunity, obviously, for live music,” he said. “But I know in conversations with the mayors in the West Shore there’s opportunity for them to do some community events in there, as well.”

The timelines for the new Victoria casino are still coming together, Lightbody said. One of the first steps is for BCLC is to find a partner to run it.

“Together with them we’ll find a location and put together a comprehensive plan, and that will be submitted to council, as well as go through a real public process where we’ll receive feedback from the public,” he said. “Then that will be up to the city council to decide.”

The Crystal Garden and the adjacent Apex lot have been identified as potential sites by Victoria council. Since the city does not have any sites zoned for casinos, a rezoning would be needed for any property that emerges.

City policy does not allow for a casino as a standalone facility, so it will have to be combined with another use such as a hotel.

Potential revenue from a Victoria casino has been pegged at $30 million to $40 million, with Victoria standing to make from $1.8 million to $2.5 million annually as payment for being the host municipality.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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