CBRM signs off on casino lease renewal
Councillor wants bigger share of gaming pot
Cape Breton Regional council has renewed its lease arrangement with Casino Nova Scotia, but at least one member of council would like to see the municipality receive a more lucrative cut of the revenues it provides the province.
At its regular monthly council session Tuesday, councillors voted in favour of renewing the lease, which sees the CBRM receive $300,000 annually for leasing the land on which the casino, operated by Great Canadian Gaming, sits. One change made to the agreement sees that, rather than renewing for a straight 30- year term, the renewal term will read as an option to extend the term of the lease for three consecutive terms of 10 years.
Jim McGrogan, vice-president of business development with Great Canadian Gaming, said it proposed the change to align better with the 10-year agreement it has with the Nova Scotia Provincial Lotteries and Casino Corp. for operating the casino.
The new arrangement will not see the CBRM receive less than the annual rent it currently collects from the casino.
“It allows you actually to look every 10 years at the rent again, at the same time having the protection that it’s never going to be less than it is today,” McGrogan said.
Chief financial officer Marie Walsh noted that, based on appraisals, the rent currently being paid is well above market value. Despite a challenging local economy and diminishing population, the Sydney casino’s revenues have remained relatively consistent since 2004-2005, at $20-22 million annually. That includes more than $8 million that goes to the province each year, with an allocation of more than $2.5 million of that amount for First Nation communities. Dist. 8 Coun. Kavin Saccary noted that represents money that is removed from the local economy.
“We talk about economic hardship in this municipality, and we talk about the casino taking $ 20- 22 million a year out of our economy,” he said. “That concerns me,”
Saccary said he has enjoyed attending the casino himself, but he is disturbed when he sees some patrons who overextend themselves when gambling. He added he would like to see the CBRM explore with the province whether there are other opportunities for the CBRM to benefit from gaming revenues.
Walsh said the issue of revenue-sharing falls outside the term of the lease agreement and would have to be addressed with the province. CBRM officials have held discusions with the province about accessing additional revenues from the casino and further meetings are expected, she added.
The Sydney casino employs about 130 people, with an annual payroll of more than $ 4 million. It also pays about $342,000 in annual property taxes and spends about $1.5 million a year with Cape Breton vendors.
“We talk about economic hardship in this municipality, and we talk about the casino taking $ 20- 22 million a year out of our economy.”
Dist. 8 Coun. Kavin Saccary