A casino may still be in the cards for Saanich as Mayor Fred Haynes and Coun. Susan Brice prepare to reignite efforts to bring a gaming and entertainment facility to the municipality.
The B.C. Lottery Corporation (BCLC) reached out to Saanich council last March to express interest in further discussing options to bring a casino to the district.
The BCLC also offered to attend a council meeting to discuss the specifics of bringing a casino to Saanich and to answer questions councillors may have, Haynes explained. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts were delayed.
In 2015, the former council expressed interest in being considered to host the region’s second gaming facility. The following year, the BCLC shortlisted Saanich and Victoria but eventually decided on the capital city. Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps later announced the city was no longer interested in a casino due to concerns about potential illicit activity. However, Saanich remained positive about a gaming facility and in early 2019, the current council reiterated the district’s interest.
Haynes explained that after the BCLC’s invitation to meet in 2020, there was a one year delay because a casino was not a priority during the pandemic. Saanich was focused on “running essential services and protecting our people,” he said.
Brice, who has long supported bringing a casino to the district, emphasized that “it would be very timely” for Saanich to resume efforts now that the municipality is shifting toward economic recovery. She added that the community response has been overwhelmingly positive.
A casino could increase the district’s economic resilience as 10 per cent of the profits from the facility would go to Saanich – an amount that could range from $2.5 million to $3 million, Haynes explained.
The pair envision the casino being accompanied by a new hotel and performance centre which would create jobs and fill a gap as there are few accommodation options nearby. Brice added that choosing a location in eastern Saanich would ensure that the new casino wouldn’t pull business away from Elements Casino in View Royal.
Haynes expects a report to come to council in the next few weeks at which time councillors would decide whether or not to move forward with a meeting with BCLC to discuss the next steps.