With casinos closed and online gambling still active, a Kamloops city councillor thinks municipalities should get a cut of the BC Lottery Corporation’s online betting revenues.
Coun. Arjun Singh told council on Tuesday that he knows someone who works for BCLC, who reported that online gambling has increased significantly as people are asked to stay home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the City of Kamloops is anticipating $2 million worth of lost gambling-revenue grants through September, due to the ongoing closures of Cascades and Chances casinos, from which the city is allocated 10 per cent of revenue annually.
As a host community, the city receives a portion of gambling revenues from casinos within its jurisdiction, money that is used to fund various city projects. Singh said Kamloops does not receive funds from online gambling, despite the fact the province can track from where people are playing, including Kamloops residents.
“Obviously, they can track where folks are coming from,” Singh said. “If some of that activity has been displaced online now and, obviously, we have a big revenue hole, I wonder whether there is a possibility for us to actually try to lobby for that, try and talk to the province about whether they could replace some of that funding we lost through the offline casinos.”
Mayor Ken Christian said he will explore the issue, as he is unaware how online gambling revenue is divvied up in British Columbia.
Meanwhile, also on Tuesday, council deferred $2 million worth of projects through September to be funded by gaming grants, including: the second phase of McArthur Island community park ($210,000), downtown streetscape improvements to Victoria Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues ($750,500), museum facility and storage improvements ($368,000), Old Courthouse renovations ($141,000) and the purchasing of accessibility mats for events like Canada Day, discussed during supplemental budget talks this year ($40,000).
Council heard the city expects gambling revenue to be impacted and return slowly, due to not only physical-distancing rules in place to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, but also because of less disposable income for residents.
KTW has a call in to the provincial government to gather information on where online gambling revenue is directed.