Vancouver considers more gambling at city’s two casinos

BCLC wants to increase the number of slot machines and tables at Parq and Hastings Racecourse casinos

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The BC Lottery Corporation wants Vancouver to lift or modify its 13-year moratorium on gambling expansion in the city.

According to the city’s Managing Director of Arts, Culture and Community Services, Margaret Wittgens, there has recently been interest from the BCLC in expanding gambling at the city’s two casinos: Parq and Hastings Racecourse.

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“BCLC seeks to expand gaming opportunities at the Parq and Hastings Racecourse casinos by potentially increasing the number of slot machines and table games,” Wittgens wrote in a report to council’s policy and strategic priorities committee on May 8.

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Currently, the Parq casino in Yaletown has 600 slot machines and 61 tables, while East Vancouver’s Hastings Racetrack has 446 slot machines and no table games. Parq has permission to operate 75 tables. Hastings Racecourse has permits to operate 600 slot machines.

In the 2022/2023 fiscal year, the city earned $7.2 million as its share of gaming revenue from the two casinos. This is set at 10 percent of the game’s total revenue and therefore changes each year. In 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 the figure exceeded $10 million, while the city did not earn anything in the year 2020/2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

City reports claim BCLC’s expansion desires would bring an additional $2.5 million to $5 million a year to city coffers.

The majority of gaming revenue coming to the city comes from Parq (88 percent in 2022/2023).

As a result of BCLC’s interest, Wittgens and City Manager Paul Mochrie recommend that council modify the moratorium to consider expanding the two casinos as long as BCLC provides an impact assessment on the proposed expansion.

The moratorium was approved in April 2011, during former Mayor Gregor Robertson’s government, as a way to get the provincial government and BCLC to “conduct a comprehensive public consultation on the issue of expanding gambling in the City of Vancouver.”

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“To date, the province and BCLC have not completed the work set out in the moratorium that must be completed before the moratorium ends, so the moratorium remains in effect in the city,” Wittgens said.

Staff has proposed four options for council to address BCLC’s expansion request. They are:

  • Modify the moratorium to accept only one expansion application for one or both existing casinos, accompanied by a health, safety and economic impact assessment.
  • Completely lift the moratorium for new and existing casinos, accompanied by the impact assessment.
  • Keep the moratorium in force.
  • Direct staff to lead and resource a full assessment and analysis of the public policy implications of modifying or lifting the moratorium and report to council.

Wittgens and Mochrie recommend that the council support option one because it allows it to consider applications only from existing operations.

“Staff recommends Option 1, which allows council to consider the impacts of individual applications submitted to expand gaming in Vancouver, while restricting the scope of those applications to existing facilities,” the report states.

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In 2011, the city rejected an application for a casino with 1,500 slot machines on Vancouver’s waterfront.

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