The British Columbia Lottery Corporation is furthering its hunt for a potential second casino location in the region.
It’s something View Royal Mayor David Screech passionately opposes. “(BCLC) is very determined, they’re doing it,” he said, noting the corporation’s search for a location has remained relatively under the radar.
He added the Town of View Royal has created a website that highlights some of the reasons why it does not support a second casino in the region. “We’re trying to raise the profile and get more people interested in (the idea).”
The process started last fall when BCLC identified, based on an assessment, an opportunity in the marketplace for an additional gaming facility in Greater Victoria.
That has led to View Royal Casino, owned by the Great Canadian Gaming Corp., putting their upgrade plans on hold.
“They’re not doing that because of the uncertainty of a second casino,” Screech said.
Chuck Keeling, Great Canadian Gaming Corp. vice-president, confirmed those renovation plans have been tabled.
“We’ve been looking at a fairly significant redevelopment plan,” he said. With a price tag of upwards of $20 million, he added, they will not be pursuing those plans until they know exactly what BCLC has proposed. “If there’s going to be a fundamental change to the marketplace, we need to know exactly what that is.”
In the meantime, he said, “it’s business as usual for us.”
Screech called the potential to lose the redevelopment “a huge loss, not just for the West Shore but for the region.” The loss of additional jobs and spin-off business that would be created by the redevelopment would also be a huge blow, he added.
When View Royal Casino became the only facility of its kind in the region, there was an expectation that it would remain that way, the mayor said. He noted it was established on the West Shore as a way to attract more residents and tourists out of the downtown core. This was meant as a way to help diversify the locations of the region’s tourism industries. A move to locate a second casino closer to the downtown core would undermine that, he said.
While details from BCLC’s market assessment are confidential and contain competitive information, the corporation plans to meet with Screech and Langford Mayor Stew Young this Friday (May 6) to give them more in-depth details.
As for a second facility’s effect on View Royal Casino, Keeling said it’s uncertain what that could be without knowing more about the size of the new facility, its location, the gaming infrastructure it might offer, and other details. “We believe it would have some type of impact.”
The BCLC recently announced it had concluded the first phase of investigation to determine a potential host community for a new gaming facility. The District of Saanich and City of Victoria will continue on to the next phase of this evaluation. Any sites being considered must be able to accommodate a gaming floor in the range of 15,000 to 30,000 square feet, with a minimum of 400 parking stalls.
Angela Koulyras, a BCLC spokesperson, said they requested additional information from the two municipalities, and given them a deadline of June 23. BCLC will then spend the summer reviewing the submissions.
“There’s no timeline with this, necessarily,” Koulyras said. Once BCLC decides on a host municipality, a formal proposal will be developed to be brought before that council. It would include information on the size and scope of the facility. She added, “the community ultimately has the final say.”
Expressions of interest were also received from Esquimalt First Nation, Songhees First Nations and the Township of Esquimalt. However, these groups were eliminated from the running during the first phase, where submissions were scored on criteria related to community support and geographic, economic and demographic considerations.
Screech noted a second casino would significantly reduce municipal revenues. A letter from Screech due to be heard by Langford on Monday stated that in 2015 View Royal Casino revenues were shared roughly as follows: View Royal, $1.838 million; Langford, $1.234 million; Colwood and Esquimalt, $317,000 each; Sooke $242,000; Metchosin, $93,690 and Highlands $41,000.
Koulyras said their assessment “indicated there is a market not being served by the View Royal Casino.” She noted a second facility would generate an additional $30 to $45 million in revenue annually.
“There are two distinct markets,” she said of Greater Victoria, noting one is the West Shore area with the other being Victoria and Saanich. “We know the View Royal Casino has been very successful.”
She added the West Shore has seen record population growth in recent years and this growing player base, right in the View Royal Casino’s backyard, is waiting to be captured. She gave as an example Kamloops, which has two successful gaming facilities serving a population roughly a quarter the size of Greater Victoria.
A number of factors, including location, population trends, tourism and consumer behaviour, were used to assess the need for a second location.