Casino now a bad bet in Victoria

The prospect of a casino in downtown Victoria seems like a worse chance than drawing a card with a 10 and a seven in blackjack.

Both leading mayoral candidates Lisa Helps and Stephen Hammond expressed strong opposition to the idea at an all-candidates meeting last week. Added to the gloomy prospects for a new gambling hall is the continuing inquiry by the province into money laundering at B.C. casinos.

“I am not in support of a casino,” said Helps. And then, assuming council will back her position in the new term if she’s re-elected, she added: “We will send the lottery corporation packing.”

This is a switch for the mayor. She previously has expressed interest in considering a plan to build a gambling hall adjacent to a new downtown hotel.

The BC Lottery Corporation has been holding meetings with Victoria business groups to discuss the plan, which was expected to face a council public hearing before the end of this year.

But some local residents and council members consider a gambling hall a net loss for the city.

“It’s a tax on vulnerable residents and it takes the economic activity out of the area around it,” Councillor Jeremy Loveday told The Record.

Loveday steered a motion through council last month to ask the B.C. Attorney General for an update on the money-laundering investigation into organized crime funneling large sums of cash through B.C. casinos.

So in the last phase of the election, the tide has turned against a gambling emporium. But could the thinking of the mayor, incumbent or new, change again after Oct. 20? Don’t take bets on that.