Vancouver votes to allow casino expansion applications

Existing facilities can be amended

Vancouver City Council has voted to amend the moratorium on casino expansion to allow more gambling at the city’s two land-based gaming venues.

The British Columbia Lottery Corporation had requested that the policy be changed to allow more table games and slot machines to be added at Parq Casino Vancouver and Hastings Racecourse and Casino. The lottery corporation’s proposal emphasized both facilities have the capacity for increased operations and stressed that doing so would bring in more revenue for the city and local communities.

On May 8, the Standing Committee on Policy and Strategic Priorities assessed several options presented in a staff report that proposed lifting the moratorium which has been in place in the city since 2011 and prohibits applications to expand gaming at land-based venues.

BCLC confirmed to Canadian Gaming Business on May 9 that the council voted to allow staff to receive applications to “substantially change the extent of lottery schemes” at existing gaming facilities, the option that had been recommended by the report’s authors.

The vote means Section 18 (1) of the Gaming Control Act will be revised. The casinos will be required to provide full assessments of the health and safety and economic impacts of their proposals.

BCLC said it will work with the City of Vancouver and partners, including government and public health, on any potential proposals for gambling expansion at the two venues. The lottery corporation added that public consultation will be an important component of this process.

The change only applies to existing facilities. The moratorium still applies to any new gambling facilities that may open within the city’s jurisdiction.

Parq currently has 600 slot machines and 61 gambling tables while Hastings holds 446 slot machines. The report did not clarify how many the lottery corporation is looking to add.

A BCLC spokesperson had previously told Canadian Gaming Business that through its consultations with Vancouver on the state of the gaming market and the performance of the facilities, “an opportunity was identified to enhance the gambling mix” at both venues.

BCLC estimates up to $5 million revenue increase

BCLC estimated in the report that expanding one or both of Parq or Hastings could increase the government’s annual slice by somewhere between $2.6 million to $5 million.

B.C. regulations guarantee municipal governments 10% of net casino gaming revenue in their jurisdiction on an annual basis. Parq contributed more than $6 million and Hastings around $1 million to the city in the 2022-23 fiscal year, according to financial disclosures in the staff report.

“Like most cities, Vancouver has seen significant growth since the moratorium was approved in 2011, almost 15 years ago,” a BCLC spokesperson told Canadian Gaming Business. “Since then, the population has grown by an estimated 22% while the gambling mix in Vancouver has remain unchanged. Amending the moratorium will allow us to work with Vancouver city staff to look at ways to meet increased player demand and expectations in the city and generate additional revenue for the Province of B.C. and City of Vancouver.”

Parq Vancouver was opened in 2017 next to BC Place stadium in downtown Vancouver. Under current regulations, the 72,000-square-foot, two-story casino is permitted 600 slot machines and 75 table games. It has maxed out that slot allowance and has 61 table games. Hastings Racecourse and Casino is owned and operated by Great Canadian Entertainment. It has 446 slot machines from an allowance of 600 on a casino floor beneath the horse racing grandstands.

It is uncertain how many more table games or slot machines any subsequent proposal would include.

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