The decision to bring a casino to downtown Victoria will likely come down to which site is chosen by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), says Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.
Last week, the BCLC announced it selected the City of Victoria over Saanich as the preferred municipality to host a gaming facility for the region.
According to the corporation, the city was selected because it is geographically further away from the existing View Royal casino and it has a larger population base, the BCLC said in an email.
The BCLC still needs to select an operator, who will then be responsible for selecting a location, based on available square footage, access from major arterials and parking, which would go back to the corporation for final approval.
“(It’s) good news for Victoria . . . all options are open,” said Helps, adding she was surprised the corporation didn’t name a site for the proposed casino. “I’m curious to see what will happen. All things considered, it’s potentially very good news for Victoria and we’ll look forward to the next steps and hearing from the public about the location once one has been decided.”
Last month, the city submitted a controversial expression of interest to the corporation, in which city staff identified Crystal Gardens and the adjacent Apex site as potential sites for a casino that could generate roughly $1.8 to $2.5 million in revenue for the city.
There are currently no areas in the municipality which are zoned for a casino. Once a site has been identified, the city will conduct land-use committee meetings with community associations, public hearings to have the site rezoned and will then go to council.
City policy prohibits a standalone casino operation, stipulating that such a facility must be part of a mixed-use development, such as a casino in a hotel.
However, not everyone is happy with the selection.
Victoria councillor Jeremy Loveday has been against the process from the beginning, noting he doesn’t believe a casino in the downtown core is in the best interest of the community.
“I think we should be focusing on the types of economic development that will build community, instead of a casino that will bring social issues and, for some in our community, will cause harm,” said Loveday, adding he’s received a number of phone calls and emails from residents opposing the idea. “They (casinos) don’t actually help the surrounding businesses. Unlike other entertainment complexes, they’re designed to keep people inside and spend all of their money there and then leave the area. They can actually have negative financial impacts on the surrounding businesses where they’re hosted.”
Helps said just like anything, the proposal for a casino in the downtown core will likely come down to the site and hopes council will look at the proposal with an open mind.
“There are some people who are morally opposed to casinos and that’s fine. There are some people who are morally opposed to bars and that’s fine. My perspective is that the city and city council aren’t here to regulate morality, we’re here to regulate land-use,” she said, adding she’s not sure the likelihood that a proposed casino would pass at council.
“Hopefully for all of us, it will depend on the actual proposal itself, how strong is the proposal at whatever site that comes forward. What does it feel like? What does it look like? What is the operating model? We should base our decisions on an actual proposal, not on what we may or may not think about gambling.”
The size and scope of the facility in Victoria will be based on proposed redevelopment plans for the View Royal Casino, which have been in the works for many years.
The city is still able to back out of the process at any time.