The main takeaway from Saanich council’s approval to continue its consideration for a casino or gaming facility is that nothing will be done without a great deal of public consultation and research.
With that, only Coun. Leif Wergeland voted against sending a list of potential areas in Saanich that the B.C. Lottery Corporation can now look into. BCLC narrowed its search for a new South Island casino to Saanich and Victoria on April 14.
The annual revenue potential for a new facility is targeted at $30 to $45 million, with an approximate $1.8 to $2.5 million yield for the host municipality.
“In Richmond, they put the casino earnings to the Olympics,” said Coun. Fred Haynes. “In Kelowna and other places, it goes to funding the police, and various municipal costs, so there are benefits we need to consider.”
There are five major centres designated in Saanich’s official community plan and three of those – Uptown, Tillicum and Royal Oak – are among those staff and council suggested for a casino.
“We have to put our own beliefs about gambling aside and let the public decide what’s best for Saanich,” said Coun. Vic Derman.
Coun. Colin Plant suggested a clause recommending a Tillicum neighbourhood casino could be limited to a smaller size but that was overruled. The only specific site mentioned is the redevelopment of the Playtime Bingo hall at 3400 Tillicum Ave.
Gorge-Tillicum Community Association president Rob Wickson told council it’s frustrating that Saanich staff and council wouldn’t send a small note to let the neighbourhood association know they are being included as a site.
“We need a discussion about what a casino is and how it impacts the neighbourhood, and we haven’t done that,” Wickson said. “If it has been done, it was a number of years ago and the memory has been lost.”
BCLC would want a site between 15,000 to 30,000 square feet, and with a minimum of 400 parking stalls. It would start with 300 to 400 slot machines and about eight to 10 table games.