A 600-seat entertainment venue, expanded dining options and 350 more electronic gaming machines are among the plans for an expanded View Royal Casino.
View Royal council and members of the public are slated to hear those and other details of the long-awaited, roughly $20-million project at the council meeting Tuesday (7 p.m. start).
Chuck Keeling, vice-president for stakeholder relations and responsible gaming for casino operator Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, reiterated on Monday the company’s relief over having the clarity that it will continue to be the primary gaming facility on the South Island.
“The stars have finally aligned on this,” he said.
While he steered clear of absolute specifics, he said the plan calls for “pretty well a doubling in terms of square footage. It’s a very significant redevelopment of the facility, both in terms of gaming opportunities, but also non-gaming facilities as well.”
A dining buffet and a pub-style restaurant are among the enhancements in that regard. Great Canadian will use its recent experience redeveloping and rebranding two older facilities on the mainland as a template for View Royal, Keeling said. Along with the theatre, many of the changes will be aimed at “that entertainment seeker; it will not just be geared toward that individual who is looking for gambling.”
While he couldn’t say whether the entertainment venue might attract some of the acts that perform at its casinos on the mainland, Keeling said the company envisions the theatre as a “multipurpose” room.
“It’ll have the ability to accommodate live entertainment, but we’ll be looking at other uses as well,” he said. “The goal for us will be to maximize the use of the space.” That could involve community use of the room.
This week’s appearance before council is the latest procedural move in a scenario that followed the B.C. Lottery Corporation’s July decision to keep the View Royal Casino as the primary gaming operation in this market, even with BCLC moving to add a second facility in Victoria.
Keeling said Great Canadian originally developed expansion plans in 2007, but those plans were sidetracked by the recession of 2008. More recently the company was holding off moving on the project until it heard from provincial gaming overseer BCLC on the expansion of gambling options in the region.
View Royal Mayor David Screech, who previously lobbied BCLC against locating another full-service casino in Greater Victoria, said Monday he was “thrilled,” but also relieved to see Great Canadian’s expansion plans finally moving forward.
“Clearly this is going to make the View Royal Casino the premier gaming facility on the South Island,” he said. “I think that is good news all around for View Royal and all the municipalities that benefit from their operations.”
The spinoff benefits from the expansion “are going to be huge,” he said, from the theatre and the restaurants, in terms of job creation. “It’s remarkable.”
View Royal council had approved a development permit for the casino back in 2008, Screech noted, but the new proposal is updated from that project. The proposal requires several variances to the existing zoning, mostly for setbacks.
Plans call for the theatre to be built above the gaming floors. The vacant lot across Wilfert Road from the casino property, which is owned by Great Canadian, will be transformed into a parking lot for patrons and staff, Screech said.
The casino is a major revenue generator for seven Greater Victoria municipalities – including all five West Shore jurisdictions plus Esquimalt and Sooke – with more than $4 million shared between them in 2015. The Town of View Royal received the largest portion, about $1.84 million, as host municipality.
“That money goes to support various good projects within the communities,” Screech said.
Construction is due to start sometime in 2017, Keeling said, with construction expected to “minimize any disruption to day-to-day business.” Under an aggressive schedule, the work should be completed in the first half of 2018, he added, noting that the company’s previous redevelopments give them confidence in that timeline.