Casino closure could hurt cities ‘and community groups’ finances

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With the closure of casinos in British Columbia, municipalities and community groups could lose cash with less gaming income to share.

All casinos, bingo halls and community game centers in the province were closed on March 16 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Provincial health worker Dr. Bonnie Henry said on Thursday that she would not reopen anytime soon.

“It would be the last on my list to consider reopening at this point,” said Henry.

“I have to be convinced that there is a valid reason and a safe way to do it, and I think it is something that is intended for later. “

Dr. Bonnie Henry said the casinos would not open any time soon: “I should be convinced that there is a valid reason and a safe way to do it and I think it is something that is going to be in the future. (Michael McArthur / CBC)

Henry said casinos pose COVID-19 risks: these are confined spaces and many customers are older and have underlying health conditions. These types of people are more at risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, she said.

None of the local governments or CBC News community groups have spoken of Henry’s reasoning, but some have said that the loss of gaming revenues could have an impact.

Millions in the province, cities and others

According to the B.C. The Gaming Industry Association, which represents casino operators, provided $ 982 million in revenue to the province in fiscal year 2018-2019.

Each year, approximately $ 249 million in gaming revenue is distributed to charities and local governments, the statement said.

The association said it works with British Columbia. Lottery Corporation to develop a plan for submission to the office of Dr. Henry.

A lottery spokesperson said plans to reopen would focus on improving sanitation and physical remoteness.

She wrote that the province’s online gaming offerings have grown “unprecedented” in the meantime.

Municipal coup

Communities with casinos or community gaming centers derive 10% of net gaming revenues from these operations.

Richmond receives about $ 1.2 million each month from its casino, River Rock, a spokesperson said. He said the money goes mainly to community organizations and that it is too early to know how they will be affected by any drop in gaming funds.

The City of Richmond received $ 16 million in Fiscal 2018-2019, the largest number of cities in British Columbia. (CBC)

A spokesperson for the City of Vancouver said the city’s 2020 budget included $ 7.1 million in gaming revenue from the Parq Casino and the Hastings Race Course. This figure has been reduced to $ 1.6 million.

The spokesperson said the money was going to operating expenses such as police and community services.

The city of Kamloops received $ 2.5 million in the 2018-2019 fiscal year from its two casinos.

Coun. Arjun Singh, who is also the former president of the UBCM, said that most communities, including Kamloops, do not use gaming revenues to finance daily operations.

Money is not “life or death,” he said, but it pays for projects like playgrounds or recreation centers.

“In terms of our ability to have tenders for building … equipment in the community, this is very significant,” said Singh.

Singh wants the province to consider giving local governments a reduction in online gaming revenues in the interim.

Community groups, First Nations

The casino money also goes to a wide variety of community groups in British Columbia. in the form of grants.

Kent Harrison Search and Rescue received $ 200,000 in 2018-2019, which research manager Neil Brewer said he spent on a new command vehicle to coordinate the rescues.

“You look at it as a supplement,” said Brewer. “We were hoping to reapply this year to replace a boat on Harrison Lake.

“We may have to save money over several years now, accumulate it, to buy this ship … it could take six or seven years. “

Since the 2019 provincial budget, British Columbia First Nations communities have also received a decrease in provincial gaming revenues.

A spokesperson for British Columbia’s First Nation Gaming Revenue Sharing Limited Partnership, which manages these funds, said it was too early to speculate on how the shares of these communities might be affected.

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