The proposed expanded casino in the heart of Vancouver would spark $130-million to $155-million in new gambling from local residents, according to B.C. Lottery Corporation projections.
Along with $100-million from tourists, the hundreds of millions in extra betting from B.C. gamblers would allow the city casino operation to triple its current revenue to about $360-million.
That potential demand is why the corporation is supporting - and prepared to join in an energetic fight for - a 1,500-slot, 150-table casino run by Paragon Gaming, corporation president Michael Graydon said Thursday in an interview with The Globe and Mail.
He played down concerns that the new facility might cannibalize revenue from existing casinos.
"We are building to what we believe the capacity of the market is," he said, promising that the corporation, Paragon and PavCo - the government arm that owns the land next to BC Place that the new casino would sit on - will mount an intensive campaign to combat what he says is misinformation from opponents.
Despite that significant projected increase, Mr. Graydon said, an expanded casino will not increase problem gambling. He said surveys showed that 4.6 per cent of the population was susceptible to problem gambling in 2002. And, after eight years and an expansion and upgrading of gambling facilities locally, the rate is still at 4.6 per cent. He also argued that, contrary to what opponents have been saying, casinos are heavily monitored and not easy places to launder money.
Paragon issued a news release Thursday with a long list of union, sports and business groups supporting the expansion.
On the other side, a union representing gaming workers in North America has circulated information this week painting Paragon as a company that has had several failed casino bids, that won't hire the hundreds of workers it's promising to employ and that is best known for small operations in Alberta.
A group called Vancouver Not Vegas has accumulated a list of celebrity signers of an anti-expansion petition based on concerns about increased crime, increased problem gambling and the reputation and financial capacity of Paragon Gaming.
Vancouver's proposed casino expansion has been forecast to boost the domestic market of casino users to between $250-million and $275-million within a few years. Very little of that would come from people switching over from other casinos, Mr. Graydon said.
Another $100-million could come from tourism and convention business, he said.
That would translate into more money for the province, which gets 45 per cent of casino revenues, to pay for health and education. It's more revenue for the city, up to $23-million.
And, he said, the project will generate $1-billion worth of construction, between the hotels, the casino itself and the residential towers being planned by Concord Pacific.
But if Vancouver City Council were to turn down a casino expansion, both Mr. Graydon and PavCo chair David Podmore - who is relying on $6-million a year in lease payments from Paragon to help pay for the $563-million in renovations to BC Place - say the entire hotel-casino-entertainment project would likely collapse.
"There's no way of sugar-coating it, it would set us back quite a ways," Mr. Podmore said.
Mr. Graydon said that if Vancouver turned down the expansion, the corporation would likely go to other municipalities that have been asking for casinos, including Port Moody and Surrey.
Throughout Canada, only Quebec gets a greater proportion of its provincial revenue from its gambling operations than B.C. The lottery corporation provided $1.079-billion to B.C. in the 2009/10 fiscal year. Casinos accounted for three-quarters of that. The province's total revenue from all sources for the same year was $37.5-billion.