BCLC Denies iGaming Revenue for Kamloops

The city of Kamloops in British Columbia relies partially on revenues from its casinos to sustain its economic health. When its two casinos – Cascades and Chances – closed in mid-March to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus pandemic, it hurt the community.

For the past month, Kamloops representatives met with colleagues in the British Columbia government to discuss sharing the wealth from BCLC online gambling endeavors. Those talks seemed positive…until this week. BC officially denied Kamloops any financial benefits from online gambling revenue.

Kamloops Economic Ties to Gambling

As the largest community in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District of British Columbia, Kamloops boasts of approximately 100,000 people. Health care and education are big industries in the city, as is tourism and sports and recreational attractions.

The city also benefits from two casinos and more than 100 lottery locations. Not only do the gambling centres attract visitors, they employ hundreds of Kamloops residents. The two casinos, in particular, generate millions of dollars in revenues annually. The coffers have garnered more than $50 million since the casinos opened.

Further, Chances Kamloops and Cascades Casino Kamloops dedicate millions in annual revenue (10% of casinos’ total revenues) to local initiatives within the Kamloops community. Some of those projects have included wildlife park funding and downtown infrastructure investments.

Looking for Solutions in a Pandemic

The federal and provincial governments of Canada, alongside health officials, ordered all nonessential businesses across the country closed in mid-March. The coronavirus pandemic was spreading, and the only way to stop it was to require as many residents as possible to self-quarantine.

Nearly every industry in the nation suffered significant financial hardships. Kamloops and all of BC were no exceptions.

By the beginning of May, casinos and so many other businesses had been closed for more than a month and a half, and Kamloops officials were looking at any ways to bring in money. Knowing that the British Columbia Lottery Corporation was the only gambling entity taking in revenue during that time – and increased revenue at that – Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian began meeting with officials in the provincial government.

Part of the motivation to discuss revenue solutions was the admission from BC officials that the casinos would be among the last possible businesses to reopen.

Christian hoped, at the suggestion of Kamloops official Arjun Singh, that one solution would be to forward a portion of the BCLC online gambling profits on PlayNow.com to Kamloops. Since BCLC can tell the location of its players, Kamloops should receive a portion of any igaming revenue from Kamloops players online.

Never Mind

This week, BC Attorney General David Eby sent a letter to Mayor Christian that the latter released to the City Council. The overall answer to the plea for internet gambling revenue was no.

Eby wrote, “In light of government’s use of net gambling revenue to support key programs and essential services for all communities in BC, a change to the distribution of online gambling revenue is not contemplated at this time.”

Though Eby acknowledged the financial woes of Kamloops, especially with regard to casinos being in the last phase of any reopenings, he said BC has already helped and committed to further helping Kamloops in other ways.

Some Federal Assistance

At the same time that Eby was rejecting Christian’s proposal for online gambling revenue, the federal government announced infrastructure funding for the country. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed the plan to distribute $2.2 billion overall for infrastructure in various municipalities. And Kamloops is to receive $3.8 million of it.

Kamloops Finance Director Kathy Humphrey expressed relief about the funding that will come from gas taxes. Just last month, the city wasn’t sure the government would direct the money to Kamloops. Further, it would do so in one lump sum in the coming weeks instead of the usual two payments – one in spring and the other in autumn.

The next step for Humphrey and others is to decide which projects will move forward. Since there are so many revenue shortfalls, including the ongoing issue with casino revenue, they will need to designate priorities.

Slow Path to Reopening

Meanwhile, Kamloops is on a slow but steady path of reopening its businesses.

On May 22, the second phase of the BC Restart Plan allowed Kamloops to reopen some city facilities, such as City Hall and the Civic Operations Centre. One week later, the TCC Indoor Track began to open again. This week, playgrounds and outdoor fitness equipment stations reopened, including those in municipal parks and public schools.

Phase 3 is now in progress but will continue through September to gradually reopen hotels and resorts, parks with camping, the film industry, some movies and musical productions, and eventually schools. Phase 4, however, is to be determined and will consist of restarting conventions, concerts, and professional sports games with live audiences.

And per that last phase of reopening, the BC plan states, “The timing of a safe restart of night clubs, casinos and bars is a more complicated consideration.” These entities will need to develop their own safety protocols and proposals for review.

 

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. As the online gaming sectors have changed and grown, particularly in the United States and Canada, she has followed it all and written about it for websites like World Poker Tour and PokerScout. In her free time, she runs a small business, reads, cooks, and enjoys music.

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