Gambling foes fear ‘mini-casino’ spread
FRASER VALLEY: Gov’t addicted to revenue, critics charge
Plans to add slot machines to bingo halls in several Fraser Valley communities have critics of gambling grumbling.
Bill Chu of the Multicultural Coalition Against Gambling Expansion says the transition of bingo halls to community gaming centres is essentially creating numerous “mini-casinos.”
“Our provincial government is addicted to gambling,” he said yesterday.
“Look at the money involved and you’ll see why.”
The conversion of bingo halls to community gaming centres, complete with slot machines and electronic bingo games, is part of the B.C. Lottery Corp.’s strategy to make up for declining bingo revenue.
Mission opened the Valley’s first community gaming centre last summer, while similar centres are also planned for Langley and Abbotsford.
Surrey council is currently considering a proposal by Boardwalk Gaming and Entertainment for 75 to 150 slot machines.
“The goal is to maintain bingo as the marquee game and add a variety of additional entertainment options that will attract new customers,” Boardwalk president Jordan Gnat told The Province recently.
“Modern bingo centres do not have table games and are limited to a maximum of 150 slot machines,” he said.
But Chu argues that adding more slot machines to those already in the region will be similar to adding another major casino.
“We see the same pattern happening over and over in these communities,” he said, adding that, because local governments get a cut of gambling profits, they have an incentive to approve them. Charities are in a similar position, he says.
“Charities are pleading the case for gambling to local government. It’s a very weird arrangement,” said Chu.
BCLC officials were unavailable for comment yesterday, but reports show that, of the $2.4 billion in revenue generated by the corporation in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2007, the province’s net income was about $1 billion.
B.C. government budget figures project that its gaming revenue will reach $1.201 billion by 2010-11, exceeding the $1.193 billion generated by corporate income taxes.
As of March 31, 2007, there were 6,161 slot machines provincewide.
Bill Chu of the Multicultural Coalition Against Gambling Expansion is opposed to community gaming centres.