The B.C. Lottery Corporation (BCLC) has reached out to Saanich to discuss bringing a casino to the municipality.
On March 11, Saanich received a letter from the BCLC explaining that, in accordance with interest expressed in 2016, the lottery corporation hopes to discuss the potential of bringing a “gaming and entertainment facility” to the District.
The facility would provide space for more than just gambling, said Mayor Fred Haynes. He envisions a casino, hotel, restaurant and performance space all in one.
The former Saanich council expressed interest in having Saanich be considered as a potential site for a new casino back in 2015, Haynes said. In early 2019, the current council unanimously voted to update the 2016 expression of interest.
In 2016, the BCLC short-listed Saanich and Victoria for a new south Island casino. A year later, the BCLC announced Victoria was the preferred municipality to host the region’s second gaming facility. At the time, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps called this “good news,” but later announced Victoria was no longer interested in having a casino. Helps cited concerns about drugs and money laundering.
Haynes, however, is feeling positive about the concept of bringing a gaming and entertainment facility to the municipality because he’s seen the benefits the Elements Casino has brought to the West Shore. He said casinos create jobs, bring tax relief for residents and create a community gathering place.
Haynes added that opportunities for economic expansion cannot be ignored, especially not during the COVID-19 outbreak. He expects revenue from a casino would range from $2.5 to 3 million and, according to the BCLC website, local governments that host casinos receive 10 per cent of the income generated at the gaming centre.
Despite it being too early for Haynes to speculate about a specific location for a potential casino, he expects that proximity to the Elements Casino would be taken into consideration. This means it would be unlikely that the new gaming facility would be built near Uptown Shopping Centre, he said, despite a 2016 report indicating the mall would be the ideal location. Haynes pointed out that the casino would need to be located further east.
The BCLC plans to attend a council meeting to discuss the specifics of a casino in Saanich and to answer questions council may have. Haynes said there is currently no specific timeline due to the COVID-19 situation.
–With files from Wolfgang Depner