Kamloops, Okanagan cities losing millions while casinos remain closed due to COVID-19 - InfoNews

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Kamloops, Okanagan cities losing millions while casinos remain closed due to COVID-19

Closed casinos in B.C. are costing local cities millions in lost revenues.
June 15, 2020 - 7:00 AM

Kamloops and three Okanagan cities have lost millions of dollars in revenues because casinos were closed in B.C. on March 16 due to COVID-19.

And the bleeding will continue since Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said casinos will be among the last to reopen.

Kelowna, which got $4 million in gaming revenues from the province in the last fiscal year, budgeted for a $1.5 million loss of those revenues this year because of COVID-19. That was back in April when it was projected that the casinos would stay closed through to the end of May, then have a 25 per cent drop in revenue for the rest of the year.

The financial impact is likely to be much larger.

Kamloops got about $2.7 million last year with Vernon and Penticton coming in at just under $1.8 million each for a total of $10.2 million among them.

The provincial government posts gaming revenues every three months so the next update won’t be available until some time in July. But the latest report shows, for the first three months of the year to the end of March, revenues in the four cities were down by $414,000 compared to the previous year. The casinos were only closed for two weeks by that time.

By the end of June, the second quarter loss could be in the range of $2.5 million for the four cities. No other towns or cities in the region have gaming outlets.

Those losses will likely keep growing through the summer.

That means Vernon will likely not go ahead with a $642,000 plan to convert its streetlights to energy efficient LED bulbs.

Penticton used its gaming money to help pay off the debt on the South Okanagan Events Centre. That debt was gone by the end of 2018 so most of that money is now going into an "asset sustainability reserve" to deal with aging infrastructure.

"With COVID hitting and anticipated reduced gaming revenues through the balance of the year, we will likely not be making any contribution to the reserve," Jim Bauer, Penticton's chief financial officer said in an email.

iNFOnews.ca did not get a response from the City of Kamloops by publication time but, following a 2018 casino strike, Dave Hallinan, Kamloops’ planning and procurement manager, said they've traditionally used gaming revenues to fund new initiatives.

It's Kelowna that may have to do the most juggling because they use gaming revenues to offset RCMP operating funds.

The original $1.5 million estimated revenue loss was offset by cuts in other areas of the city's budget. City Finance Director Genelle Davidson said, in and email, that the city may now have to borrow money to make up the additional shortfall.

Here is what each city got in gaming revenues in the last fiscal year.

  • $4,009,651 – Kelowna
  • $2,660,181 – Kamloops
  • $1,785,607 – Vernon
  • $1,764,945 – Penticton

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