Helps no help for supporters of more casino gambling in Victoria.
In 2015, Victoria, British Columbia seemed like the perfect place to build a new casino. The provincial capital already had one gambling destination just outside of town. Being such a populace city, there was easily room for two. With the majority of city officials on board, they submitted their interest to the BC Lottery Corp, and in 2016, Victoria was selected as the prime location for the new gaming facility.
The odds of a casino in Victoria were high. Everyone praised the decision—except perhaps the owners of the casino in nearby View Royal. Mayor Lisa Helps led the pack of supporters, calling it “a win for everyone”. More recently, however, her mood has flipped entirely.
No More ‘Helps’ for Casino Gambling in Victoria
Last month, BCLC sent a letter to Victoria City Council stating that they’re ready to move forward with the plan. Regulators are preparing to browse bids from gaming operators who wish to submit a proposal for the new facility. But BCLC knows support for Victoria as a host city is waning, and is requesting reaffirmation prior to its request for bids.
In light of all that’s happened over the last year in BC’s gambling industry, Mayor Helps says she’s no longer on board with the idea of building a new casino in downtown Victoria. “I was open to it,” she said, “but this new information makes me not open to it.”
The “new information” Mayor Helps is referring to is the revelation that, for years, BC casinos have been a virtual laundromat for organized crime. A report released earlier this year confirms that, since 2011, more than $100 million in dirty money has moved through the province’s casinos.
Mayor Helps fears that supporting a casino at this juncture would be akin to turning a blind eye to the situation; something Peter German’s Dirty Money report accuses BC gaming officials of doing since 2011.
“There’s too much information that has come out with regard to money laundering, trafficking in fentanyl and organized crime. I don’t think we need that in Victoria,” said Mayor Helps.
Odds of Casino in City Council’s Hands Now
The mayor’s opposition is known to City Council and BCLC officials, but a formal response is on the way. Helps says she intends to submit a request asking councilors to write back to BCLC, rescinding their previous interest in becoming a host city. She’s hoping they will agree there’s no need for more casino gambling in Victoria.
The letter she wrote to City Council is expected to be a weighty topic of discussion at this Thursday’s council meeting. The mayor will be present to outline all of her concerns, and ask that the city’s interest be formally withdrawn from BCLC’s consideration.
In its communications with Victoria officials in November, BCLC’s VP of Casino and Community Gaming, Brad Desmarais wrote, “Recognizing the length of time since it first corresponded with the City, BCLC is respectfully requesting a reaffirmation of the City of Victoria’s participation.”
The regulatory body confirmed that it is aware of Mayor Helps recent opposition, and will respect the impending decision of the local government.