David Screech: Larger casino would dilute the market

Once again this week, a B.C. Lottery Corp. spokesperson was in the news telling us that BCLC’s market assessment shows there is revenue potential and room for a second casino in the capital region.

To that I say, please show us.

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BCLC has, to date, declined to share its market report with its key stakeholder group — the seven West Shore municipalities and two First Nations with an interest in the View Royal Casino. And now on the the BCLC website, I see a proposed second casino has the potential to outsize the View Royal facility that has served the region for the past 15 years.

The posted scope requirements for a second casino state that any sites being considered for a gaming facility must have a gaming floor in the range of 15,000 to 30,000 square feet. The site also says the physical space of the entire facility, including amenities, is yet to be determined.

A gaming floor of 30,000 square feet? Hold on. We in View Royal and the West Shore have understood — and have been told by BCLC’s president and CEO, Jim Lightbody — that a second casino in the capital region would be smaller than the View Royal facility, which would remain the primary gaming destination. But a potential 30,000-square-foot gaming floor would clearly outsize the View Royal Casino, which includes a restaurant and bar in its 30,000-square-foot total.

The scoping requirements go on to say: “An important determinant in choosing a gaming facility site is the minimizing of any impact on surrounding gaming facilities, e.g. the View Royal Casino. Drive times from the View Royal Casino may be considered in the evaluation of potential location.

“The type and size of gaming facility will be determined by BCLC and take into consideration municipal government input.”

With that last sentence in mind, I ask that Lightbody and BCLC consider the input of the municipal governments with interests in the View Royal Casino and adjacent communities.

Back in 2001, View Royal became the host community for a casino when other municipalities, including Victoria and Saanich, turned it down, largely for social reasons. The clear understanding from the outset was that it would be the only casino and would serve the region.

The View Royal Casino has been a community-building partner ever since. In 2015, View Royal, Langford, Colwood, Esquimalt, Highlands, Metchosin and Sooke shared more than $4 million in casino revenues that were used to support recreation, libraries, capital projects and grants to community groups across the West Shore.

Additionally, over the years, casino owner Great Canadian Gaming Corporation has supported community programs and charities such as Jeneece Place, the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island and the Goldstream Foodbank.

Great Canadian has a River Rock-style vision for its View Royal Casino and intends to invest $22 million in a 600-seat theatre that will host big-name acts, full-service restaurants and additional gaming areas. These plans are on hold while BCLC considers diluting the market.

And there can be no doubt a second facility will dilute the marketplace. Just months ago, the majority of municipalities within the Capital Regional District signed on to a new economic-development body to support a vibrant economy for the region as a whole. Now we have BCLC, a provincial and public entity, pitting municipality against municipality over an initiative that can only destabilize the marketplace and threaten animosities in the region.

Communities and operators need confidence in the stability of any business arena. BCLC has a duty of care to manage and respect relationships and the expectations of a key partner and stakeholder group. In failing to consider the impact a second — and potentially larger — casino will have on the region, it disregards the well-being of communities.

David Screech is mayor of View Royal.

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