Do casino owners know something everyone else is missing? 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, black jack 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 jilted operators looking elsewhere for a site. Port Moody has already said no, Surrey is interested in a destination casino with a hotel and a theatre, and North Vancouver is apparently under-served and could use some slots and gaming tables.
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.
This means any new gambling opportunities will have to siphon business away from those that are currently in operation. In Coquitlam, the Boulevard Casino apparently does a brisk business with its 1,000 slot machines and gaming tables. It has also diversified by renting out space in its theatre and hosting live shows. But 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 whine that extended gambling with 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?