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City wants bigger cut of casino dollars

Image Credit: SOURCE/ Lake City Casino
June 26, 2013 - 2:08 PM

VERNON - With the advent of online gambling, city hall is concerned it's not getting as much money from casino revenues as it should be.

Council is asking the Union of B.C. Municipalities to lobby the provincial government for an increase in the percentage of gaming revenues given to the city. Right now, Vernon gets 10 per cent of the net revenue from the local casino, about $2 million a year. But there's concern that as gamblers shift to online gaming, the pool of cash will shrink.

"Gaming opportunities are rapidly expanding in non traditional venues, eGaming in particular, which dilutes the potential market share for established casinos," the city's chief administrative officer Will Pearce said in a memo to council. "Host local government share of casino revenues are based on overall casino activity. Local
government share of revenues, in general, show signs of declining in the face of increasing competition..."

Pearce said the B.C. Lottery Corporation drew in a record net income of $1.1074 billion in 2011/2012, largely owing to eGaming. At the same time, community gaming revenues fell short of target by $41 million, leaving host local government shares "stagnant or falling", Pearce said.

"These revenues are one of very few non property tax sources to directly support local municipal needs," Pearce said.

While the funds can be used any way the city sees fit, Coun. Mary-Jo O'Keefe says quite often, the parties requesting the money are non-profits who used to fundraise at the bingo hall.

"When the big casino came, it took over all the little bingo halls," O'Keefe says. "It used to be that you'd provide the manpower (with volunteers), and get a cut of the profits to take home. It was a good way for (non-profits) to make money to put into the community."

In the years since the casino opened, groups have been lining up at city hall to ask for donations. "They struggle-struggle-struggled and now all the easy money has dried up," she says. "But what they're asking for is above and beyond what we have."

Instead of millions of casino dollars going into the provincial bank account, the city would like to see more of it remain local.

"We are closer to the people, we can make better use of it," O'Keefe says.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca, call (250)309-5230, or tweet @charhelston

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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