Editorial: Casino resort another a big city gamble

The $640 million Parq Vancouver promises to add significant buzz to the city’s entertainment and tourism markets. But the casino resort centre unveiled at the end of September will also raise further concerns over Metro Vancouver’s growing gambling culture.

Adjacent to Vancouver’s major professional sports venues, Parq Vancouver boasts a pair of luxury hotels, eight restaurants and 60,000 square feet of meeting and event space. Its casino features 600 slot machines and 75 gambling tables.

Parq Vancouver’s location in the city’s stadium district makes it convenient for local and visiting sports fans; it’s also convenient for gamblers, and gambling on sports is a big business that is getting bigger, super-charged in part by the mobile digital age.

Addiction concerns here are twofold: increased opportunities to gamble and the negative impact that more gambling availability can have on families and communities, and, perhaps as worrying, the growing government reliance on tax cash flow from casinos and lotteries.

Consider that revenue from commercial gambling in B.C. hit $2.9 billion in 2014-15. Profit to the provincial government from that total was approximately $1 billion.

The City of Richmond, home to the River Rock Casino Resort and suspected money-laundering activities, has reaped more than $172 million from casino revenue royalties since 1999.

The provincial government annually distributes millions in “gaming” grants to community services, and Parq Vancouver has allocated $1.5 million to addiction research at St. Paul’s Hospital.

However, as the 2016 MNP report on gambling policy and enforcement in B.C. revealed, provincial monitoring and policing of suspected money laundering at casinos need improving. There is also much more work to be done, as more sophisticated and glamorous gambling venues are added to local entertainment options, to educate the public about the dangers of problem gambling and to address the issues it raises for local communities, business and economies.