Port Moody calling on other municipalities to share casino cash

Hard Rock Casino Vancouver
The Hard Rock Casino in Vancouver. Robert Stefanowicz creative commons image.

Port Moody will be calling on its fellow municipalities to lobby the province for a larger share of B.C.’s casino cash.

On Feb. 28, council voted to send Coun. Samantha Agtarap’s resolution to the Local Government Association annual conference in May.

The resolution calls for the province to revisit the revenue sharing model to split the proceeds across the region.

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“Casino revenue is not shared amongst neighbouring governments but rather retained by the seven host communities,” Agtarap said. “Residents from all communities access and use amenities across the region, from hospitals to casinos to parks, and revenue should be shared in an equitable manner.”

The resolution states the status quo unfairly benefits host communities, while social costs are borne across the entire region.

Cities home to casinos have raked in $1.5 billion from the gaming industry since 1999, and are currently entitled to 10 percent of the province’s net gaming revenues.

The Metro Vancouver municipalities of Coquitlam, Burnaby, Langley, New Westminster, Surrey, Richmond and Vancouver received $40 million in the 2022 fiscal year.

Aside from gaming proceeds, these cities also receive economic benefits from property taxes, employment, and tourism with almost no drawbacks, according to the report.

The current model was intended to offset infrastructure and social service costs, but the province has admitted these costs have been minimal.

“By all accounts, most communities have experienced minimal, if any, negative financial consequences as a result of hosting such a facility and are using the revenue they receive for other, locally determined priorities,” the province stated, responding to a revenue-sharing proposal from the Union of BC Municipalities tabled in 2008.

Federal and provincial governments continue to offload responsibilities to municipal governments, who in turn are looking for additional sources of revenues besides raising property taxes. Sharing regional gaming proceeds would ease the burden placed on local governments without affecting provincial budgets, according to resolution.

While the BC Lottery Corporation distributes gaming proceeds across the province though community and program grants, these are not guaranteed, and require non-profits to successfully apply.

“This arrangement appears inherently unfair to communities that do not host gaming facilities,” the resolution stated.

The resolution argued that Port Moody hosts Eagle Ridge Hospital, which serves all the Tri-Cities, but receives no additional revenues.

Furthermore, the money received by the host communities is not proportionate to their populations. 

Richmond took in 27 percent of the region’s gaming revenue with only 8 percent of the population.

There have been successful examples of regional sharing of gaming revenues in B.C.

In 2001, the town of View Royal in Victoria opened a regional casino, serving six other communities.

The municipality took 45 percent of the gaming revenue received by the province in 2020, and distributed the remaining 55 percent ($482,000) to the other communities on a per capita basis.

The resolution posits two options for revenue sharing.

One would pool the gaming proceeds from the Lower Mainland and distribute it on a per capita basis. This would result in significant revenue losses for five of the host communities.

Langley, for instance, would lose approximately $5.6 million in funding, while Surrey and Vancouver would gain over $5 million each; Port Moody would receive approximately $490,000 annually.

The second option would follow the regional model set by View Royal, pooling 55 percent of the region’s gaming proceeds to distribute to other Metro Vancouver communities. 

In this model Surrey and Vancouver would lose 6 percent and 11 percent, respectively; Port Moody would receive approximately $270,000 annually.

The current and proposed revenue sharing models. image supplied

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