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Casino partners with Share

A prominent Tri-City charity will be beneficiary of a special relationship with Hard Rock Casino Vancouver in Coquitlam.

A prominent Tri-City charity will be beneficiary of a special relationship with Hard Rock Casino Vancouver in Coquitlam.

The former Boulevard Casino, which was rebranded last December, has picked Share Family and Community Services as its "signature charitable partner."

The Hard Rock announced Monday it will devote most of its resources to helping the Tri-City organization, which, among a variety of services, has a program for gambling addicts.

Check Keeling, vice-president of stakeholder relations and responsible gaming for Great Canadian Gaming Corp. (GCGC), which runs the United Boulevard facility, said Share was an obvious choice for Hard Rock to back.

Since Boulevard Casino launched in 2002, GCGC has donated thousands of dollars to Share. At its grand opening on Dec. 20, 2013, Hard Rock contributed $10,000 to Share and, last weekend, presented the society with $3,000 at its Imagine gala fundraiser.

With the "signature" partnership - a corporate policy that now applies to all GCGC venues and their chosen community charity - Hard Rock will allow Share to use its facilities and its staff will volunteer with Share programs such as the food bank; it is also expected Hard Rock will further fund the society.

Asked about the potential conflict between the gaming facility and the gambling addiction services Share offers, Keeling said the company isn't shying away. In Richmond, where GCGC owns and operates the River Rock Casino, Richmond Family Services has been named as its "signature charitable partner" and it also helps gambling addicts, Keeling said.

"I think there's value in supporting those organizations that help those individuals that can't gamble responsibly - whether it's at one of our facilities, other facilities, online gambling or lottery tickets," he said. "That's not a difficulty or a challenge for us."

Share CEO Martin Wyant was unable to say how many gaming addicts his counsellors treat every year at its Port Moody location (clients receive consultation at no charge). And while he said he understands if people feel uneasy with the partnership, he noted that the society continually looks to find ways to raise cash for its $7-million operating budget as senior government funding isn't increasing while needs are.

"We're seeing significant cuts across the board," Wyant said. "Many of us are finding ourselves to be much more active in fundraising to ensure we can provide the kinds of supports and services that people in our community need. And it can be a slippery slope."

Wyant said there are many instances where institutions have unlikely partnerships, such as with the oil and gas industry. He also pointed out Hard Rock has been a good corporate citizen, providing entertainment and restaurants as well as gaming. Online gambling, on the other hand, is becoming more prolific and its profits go to offshore accounts and not back to the community, he said.

Share board chair Ed Yee said formalizing the partnership "will further deepen" Share's ties with the casino, with which it has had a "long-lasting relationship."

"They have been excellent partners," he said.