Victoria council to debate whether it will host casinos in the future

Victoria council to debate whether it will host casinos in the future

WATCH: Victoria city council is set to vote tonight on an amendment that may keep a future downtown casino in the cards. In December, Mayor Lisa Helps proposed that the city withdraw its support for a second casino in the capital region, but at least one councillor hopes that option stays on the table in the name of reconciliation. Kori Sidaway has more.

The bets are rolling at Elements Casino in View Royal. It’s the only casino in the Capital Region and it looks like it may stay that way.

“There’s too much information that’s come out with regard to money laundering, trafficking fentanyl and organized crime,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

“Sure there’s revenue potential but there’s a greater cost and I’m not willing to bear that.”

Back in 2016, the City of Victoria expressed its support of building a casino in the downtown core.

But in March of 2018, an independent review found that money laundering for organized crime was rampant in Lower Mainland casinos.

That money was linked to fentanyl trafficking and real estate transactions in the heated housing market, and the revelations changed the perspective of Victoria council.

This past December, Victoria council announced it was no longer interested to host a casino.

But not all councillors are ready to deal the city out entirely.

“I understand people have very strong feelings about casinos,” said Victoria Coun. Marianne Alto.

“This is not about if casinos are good or bad. This is about being true to our commitments to our First Nation colleagues.”

Coun. Alto is proposing an option that would allow a First Nation’s casino bid in the future.

“I did speak with Chief Sam with the Songhees Nation. I asked him the question pointedly, would you like this door to close? And he said ‘no’.”

According to Alto, the Songhees Nation doesn’t have any plans to pursue a casino currently. But other municipalities in the Greater Victoria area say they’re willing to roll the dice.

“Many of our residents enjoy the casino operating in View Royal, so it would make sense for Saanich to provide a similar facility for its residents,” said Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes.

“Certainly if [BCLC] phoned us, I’d pick up the phone.”

And the District of Saanich says if the cards were dealt their way, criminal activity wouldn’t be tolerated.

“Money laundering is not a requirement of a casino, it’s a misuse of a casino,” said Haynes.

“Our job would be to make sure that if a casino did come forward that that would be diminished in any opportunity.”

The casino motion will go ahead of Victoria’s city council Thursday night at 6:30 p.m.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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