Communities mull second casino

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said there is interest in the community for a second casino or gaming facility.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said there is interest in the community for a second casino or gaming facility to be built in the municipality.

Earlier this week, the B.C. Lottery Corporation sent a letter to six communities in Greater Victoria asking if they would be interested in hosting a casino and community gaming facility — in addition to the View Royal Casino, Playtime Victoria in Saanich and Bingo Bingo in Esquimalt.

The corporation has identified Saanich, Oak Bay, Victoria, Esquimalt, Esquimalt First Nation and the Songhees First Nation as markets with potential for a second facility in the region.

Desjardins said it has not been discussed at council yet, but the community has already seen the economic benefits of its current bingo facility.

“We’ve seen the benefits of the money that comes back to the community from having such a facility. There are also jobs that are created as well as amenities that occur from having casino facilities like restaurants, entertainment,” she said, adding the previous council was interested in adding a gaming facility.

“You put it all together and there’s a significant benefit to the community from an economic development standpoint.”

Across the bridge, however, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said not everyone may be in favour of another casino.

“I’ve heard really mixed feelings about it. Just testing with a few people anecdotally, not data driven, it’s not like ‘oh yes, this is definitely something we should do.’ I think there’s a lot of caution around it,” Helps said. “Is this what we need in Victoria? Our whole strategic plan is aimed at creating well-being, prosperity and happiness. Does a casino bring that to a community? I’m not so sure.”

Victoria council has not discussed the issue either, but it has been put on the Oct. 29 agenda.

Helps added if council is potentially in support of the idea, they would not accept a standalone casino and would require it be part of a mixed-use development.

Esquimalt and Victoria councils have until Dec. 11 to submit an expression of interest.

Local governments that host a casino or community gaming centre receive a 10 per cent share of the province’s net gaming income generated by the facilities.

Last year, View Royal received more than $4 million in gaming revenue from the casino. The money was used to fund library services and other community programs.