Opinion

EDITORIAL: Gaming gamble

Is there a limitless source of gamblers in the Lower Mainland? Are destination gaming sites in Coquitlam, Richmond, New Westminster and Burnaby filled to bursting with poker, blackjack and slot machine players?

That would be the conclusion drawn from comments by BC Lottery Corp. CEO Michael Graydon, who said in February a rejection of the proposal for a mega casino next to BC Place Stadium in Vancouver would “certainly” prompt a look at sites in other Metro Vancouver cities, potentially as far as Abbotsford.

Vancouver’s spurning of a 1,500-slot machine destination casino downtown could mean operators looking elsewhere for a site.

But before the Lower Mainland becomes Las Vegas North, the question has to be asked: Are there enough gamblers to go around? While it’s true gambling has the potential of increasing tourism, the Lower Mainland is never going to have the same cachet as other famous international destinations.

And if the gambling industry insists on establishing a casino in every village and town, business will surely dwindle in communities that were early entries in the game.

While it’s probably self-serving to complain that extended gambling will reduce profits locally, and thereby revenue to host cities, the larger issue is this: Do Lower Mainland mayors see themselves as handmaidens of the gambling industry? BCLC estimates that $300 million more could be spent on gambling if there were more casinos or community gaming centres.

Really? Should would-be gamblers spend that money on gaming or would they be better to use it to pay for the rising cost of groceries, gas, electricity and housing?

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