Last year, more than $600,000 in provincial gaming grants were distributed to various organizations throughout Quesnel, on top of the revenue the City received as a host municipality for a gaming facility.
That financial impact was a part of a community impact updated provided by Greg Walker, public affairs director for the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) last week.
Presenting to Quesnel council, Walker explained that last year, BCLC provided slightly over $100 million in revenue to municipal governments across the province.
“Last year, we provided about $1.4 billion to the provincial treasury,” said Walker. “Where does it go? I wish I had a dime for every time I had to answer that question, but it’s primarily health, education, a large component goes to a consolidated revenue fund, community services, and, of course, municipal governments.”
The City of Quesnel has received $10.45 million since the opening of the Billy Barker Casino, according to Walker. The annual receive has grown each of the last three years, rising from $468,000 in 2015-16 to $479,000 in 2016-17 and $497,000 in 2017-18.
In 2017, the City of Quesnel allocated a portion of its share of provincial gaming revenue to acquire and maintain the City’s fire and safety equipment. This included a Jaws of Life rescue device, assisted breathing apparatus and protective clothing for firefighters.
“There’s a wide gamut of things the City has used the funds for, and it’s just as wide in any city I go to,” said Walker. “Suffice it to say, the City of Quesnel, like so many cities that receive funding through hosting of a facility in British Columbia, where they use the money, it’s no-strings-attached.”
The Billy Barker Casino Hotel opened in January 1998, and the facility provides 50 local jobs, according to Walker.
Through its gaming revenue, the Billy Barker Casino Hotel has provided support for multiple community organizations and events, including Billy Barker Days, the Quesnel Rodeo, the Quesnel Kangaroos, The Salvation Army, the Quesnel and District Child Development Centre, and the Quesnel and District Hospice Palliative Care Association.
While the Billy Barker Casino Hotel supports community groups and events as an individual gaming facility, the BCLC also supports the community through the Community Gaming Grant Program.
The Province of B.C. allocates $140 million annually to community organizations through the Community Gaming Grant program. BCLC raises the revenue for the program but does not administer the program, explained Walker.
Last year, 41 organizations in Quesnel received $622,205 in gaming grants to support work in the human and social services sector, public safety, amateur sports, arts and culture, and parent advisory councils. The list of grant recipients includes the Quesnel Lions Club, the Quesnel Women’s Resource Centre, Special Olympics Quesnel, the Baker Creek Enhancement Society and the Quesnel Curling Centre.
“I think to think when it comes to quality of life in your community, these are the organizations that are part of that,” he said.
During his presentation, Walker also told council about BCLC’s commitment to player health and responsible gambling.
Each year, BCLC spends an estimated $6.6 million on responsible gaming and problem gambling initiatives, programs and research. Responsible gambling resources available in B.C. include the BC GamInfo Line (formerly the Problem Gambling Helpline), and free counselling services.
Player Health programs include voluntary self-exclusion, in which a person requests BCLC’s assistance to stay out of their facilities, and GameSense.
“When we talk about player health, our commitment is to minimize whatever harm could occur from our products, that we encourage positive gaming behaviours and that effective treatment and support is available,” said Walker. “In a sense, GameSense is a philosophy. It is encouraging healthy play, and it’s making sure our players are aware of the nature of our games. Education, awareness, support — those are the key pieces of GameSense, but the way we went about it is quite different and quite frankly is recognized by the World Lottery Association.”
With GameSense, there is a booth on the floor where players can get help, and there are GameSense advisors in the facility.
“Last year, our GameSense advisors had interactions more than 100,000 times in facilities across B.C.,” he said. “The bottom line, knowledge, education, awareness and support, that’s the best way for us, we have found, to keep gambling fun, and that’s our approach.”
Following Walker’s presentation, Coun. Ron Paull noted that the community gaming grants often funnel down from one organization in the community to others, using the Rotary Club of Quesnel as an example.
“We’re only one of those two dozen grant recipients, but that money we receive filters down to the various events, projects and causes that our club puts together,” he said. “The annual seniors trek to Barkerville, our club has been doing this for over 50 years, and every year, our club takes two charter bus loads to Barkerville, and they’re treated to admission to Barkerville, lunch and a Theatre Royal live performance before we bring them home. There’s a perfect example of how that money filters down to the betterment of the community, and we thank you for that.”
Coun. Martin Runge asked if BCLC sees the money amount coming to municipalities from online gaming changing over time.
“We have an Internet gaming site ourselves, playnow.com, and the proceeds from that site are not tracked back to municipalities where the player is; it is just treated as a 6/49 and proceeds go into our revenues,” explained Walker. “It would be something the Province’s Gaming Policy folks would have to take on. The Province has not changed the revenue split since 1999, and they would be the ones who would be able to do that.”
Coun. Laurey-Anne Roodenburg noted the upward trend in revenue to Quesnel and wondered if BCLC is seeing that across B.C.
“It is a province-wide thing,” said Walker. “We are very fortunate that our revenues have continued to grow, particularly on the casino side. Generally speaking, we go down when the economy goes down. When there’s a slowdown in the economy, because we’re an entertainment company, entertainment budgets are about the first thing to be curbed.”
Mayor Bob Simpson clarified that while there has been a slight uptick in gaming revenue for Quesnel, it is down from historical levels.
There has been a trend upwards in net income delivered by BCLC to the provincial government though, noted Walker.
“The Province this past fiscal got slightly more than $1.4 billion, and that number is going up,” he said. “The heady days of double-digit growth are over, but we’re going up by two and a half to three per cent year-over-year right now, and that trend’s been holding for quite some time.”