A Saanich councillor wants to see if the dice are still hot for a casino in Saanich.
Coun. Susan Brice plans to file a notice of motion that asks staff to update the issue.
Saanich was among two communities that the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) had short-listed for a new South Island casino in 2016. In July 2017, the BCLC announced Victoria ahead of Saanich as the preferred municipality to host a second gaming facility in the region, an announcement Mayor Lisa Helps called “good news” for the city at the time. Victoria has since announced that it is not longer interested in hosting a casino.
Helps pointed among other reasons to a March 2018 report by lawyer and RCMP veteran Peter German, which states that casinos in the Lower Mainland had “unwittingly served as laundromats for the proceeds of organized crime.”
Helps said these findings had changed the “landscape with regard to Victoria’s willingness” to host a casino.
“Since 2015, there have been substantial issues uncovered with regard to money laundering in B.C. casinos as well as potential links to the trafficking of fentanyl,” she said in a report. “The B.C. government is taking this issue seriously and is taking significant action to remedy this situation. Nonetheless prosecution of these offences is difficult.”
Conscious of this background, Saanich officials have stressed that discussions around a casino are exploratory — nothing more.
Mayor Fred Haynes said he strongly supports the opportunity for this current council to have a conversation about potentially hosting a casino that would be part of a larger entertainment complex
“It’s not to be interpreted as an outright strong support for a casino,” said Haynes.
Hosting a casino could be a financial bonus for Saanich. Local governments that host a casino or gaming facility receive a 10 per cent share of the province’s net gaming income generated by the facility.
Haynes said this council was not just elected to deal with housing and the environment, but also generate economic development as part of a larger agenda to reduce Saanich’s reliance on residential property owner for tax revenues.
According to a staff report, 76.21 per cent of property taxes come from residential properties, with 23.15 per cent coming from businesses. Utilities (0.35 per cent), light industry (0.17 per cent) and recreation (0.12 per cent) make up the rest.
Council would debate Brice’s notice of motion at its next meeting.