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.

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Bill Chu of the Mul­ti­cul­tural Coali­tion Against Gam­bling Ex­pan­sion is op­posed to com­mu­nity gam­ing cen­tres.

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