Plans for a roughly $20-million redevelopment of the View Royal Casino have been put on hold by service provider

Meeting with BCLC reps leaves mayor feeling better about casinos

No promise of a second gaming facility in the region

More details of the British Columbia Lottery Corporation marketplace study of the Capital Regional District have been released to West Shore officials, but some are still questioning the numbers.

A number of BCLC representatives were in the area last week meeting with interested parties, including View Royal Mayor David Screech and Langford Mayor Stew Young, to try laying some of those concerns to rest.

“I’m not sure if it’s put all fears to rest just yet,” Screech said after the meeting. But, he added, ”I certainly walked away from it feeling more positive than I have in the last few weeks.”

While he still questioned some of the numbers put forward by the BCLC, he noted he had yet to have an in-depth look at them. “I did get the real impression that they want to sort this out in ways that work for everybody.”

With representatives from the BCLC, Great Canadian Gaming Corp. and local municipalities, Screech said the meeting allowed them to air all of their concerns and fears. “All the people that are going to be involved in the decision-making process were sitting at that table.”

The main takeaway from the meeting, Screech added, was to keep the lines of communication open. “I’ll withhold judgement until the next meeting,” which he said would take place in a few weeks. “We’ll just see where it goes.”

Jim Lightbody, BCLC CEO and president, said the mayors asked to speak with them about its plans for southern Vancouver Island. Specifically, the group talked more in depth about the market study that is credited for prompting a look into adding a second gaming facility in the region.

Although, Lightbody noted that possibility has been talked about for years.

Every two years, BCLC does a study of the province. “We identified (that) the southern Vancouver Island market wasn’t being optimally served.”

He noted this region has seen a consistent decline since 2008, but most of the province has seen increases in that time period. “That’s our responsibility, to ensure we are maintaining the revenue that ultimately goes to the community,” he said. “When we make money, that goes to help support schools, hospitals and other social services.”

He noted a number of factors could be contributing to the decline, the first being the fact there is only one facility serving the entire area. Another factor, he said, could be that the View Royal Casino hasn’t seen a significant investment in amenities since it opened back in 2000. “We’ve got to work with this workplace to see how we can turn it around,” he added.

The first step targeted for better serving the local marketplace is improving access and the second is making the View Royal Casino more attractive. “It’s got to be something at the end of the road that’s really attractive.”

Lightbody added that BCLC is eager to work with the service provider, Great Canadian Gaming Corp., to help realize some of those redevelopment plans. “We’re just recognizing it’s more important than ever for those to come to fruition.”

Chuck Keeling, Great Canadian Gaming Corp. vice-president, previously told the Gazette that they have been looking at a fairly significant redevelopment plan that would come with a price tag of upwards of $20 million. But he said those plans have been put on hold. “If there’s going to be a fundamental change to the marketplace we need to know exactly what that is,” he said.

Lightbody noted back in 2000, View Royal and Langford were the only municipalities interested in hosting a gaming facility. “This time we had lots of interest.” Which, he added, pleasantly surprised him. “There’s the potential.”

But he said “it didn’t guarantee we would open second facility … There’s still lots of discussion and deliberating to decide if that’s the right decision.”

If and when a host community is determined, a detailed plan would go before the municipal council and the end decision would be the community’s to make, he said. “We want to make sure we are in communities that accept us.” He nodded to View Royal and the other West Shore communities as an example of an area that embraces its casino. “Ultimately the customer decides our success … That’s what we’re trying to figure out now.

“We take our responsibility to manage gaming in this province very seriously … We have to look out for the public’s best interests.”

katie@goldstreamgazette.com

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