Patrons at Chances Chilliwack could be deciding whether to hold ‘em or fold ‘em by this fall.
Six “live dealer” table games like Blackjack, Texas Hold’em and Four Card Poker will be added to the existing 301 slot machines and bingo equipment at Chances.
Considered a “substantial change” to the gaming operations on Young Road, the proposal to introduce table games by Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, which owns Chances, was approved by council Tuesday by a vote of 3-2.
City councillors Chris Kloot and Harv Westeringh voted against, with Coun. Kloot citing the need for more data on the number of problem gamblers in Chilliwack before supporting the application, while Coun. Westeringh wanted the charities’ 20-year trailing payments deal to be extended.
Coun. Sue Knott stepped out of chambers, and was not part of the council discussion or vote, to avoid any conflict of interest since the organization she heads is one of those receiving financial support from the Knight Road Legacy Association (KNLA).
Several speakers at the public hearing praised the idea of introducing table games, and offered support, while one speaker, Ralph Van Nuys said there was “a lot of harm” in gambling and encouraged council to “say no” to adding table games.
Heather Rollins, vice president of Knight Road Legacy Association, said Chances provides a “very important source of revenue” for their organization supporting 48 charities.
Annual trailing payments totalled $641,444 last year for the local charities, and $2.7 million since Chances opened in 2012. Adding table games means another milestone for the facility, Rollins said, and Chances has been very supportive, allowing organizations to hold fundraisers in the gaming facility.
Patti MacAhonic of Ann Davis Transition Society, and Hank Pilotte of Bowls of Hope, both came to the podium at the hearing to declare support for the application.
Chuck Keeling, Great Canadian Gaming’s vice president of stakeholder relations and responsible gaming, said not having table games to play is the “number one complaint” they hear from Chances clientele who say they would otherwise travel outside the community to Langley and beyond to play these games.
“We believe the addition of gaming tables could mean an approximate 10 per cent increase in revenues,” he said when discussing KRLA’s share of the revenues.
In response to a question of whether approval means “opening the door” to even more table games down the road, Keeling said “the biggest lever will be the market” in determining that.
“It’s taken us seven years to get here,” Keeling said, adding that offering six tables is a “very small number” compared to other facilities patrons could head to. Whereas the facility started with 150 slots, that number has doubled now.
Coun. Bud Mercer wanted to know if the change being made at Chances Chilliwack is the type that would attract criminals involved in money laundering, entering with “large bags of cash.”
“No it isn’t,” replied Kevin deBruyckere, who is with the “Legal, Compliance, Security Division” of the B.C. Lottery Corporation, investigating money laundering. It’s more likely in VIP type rooms, which attract high stakes gamblers for games like baccarat, not the more casual table games.
Coun. Mercer later commented that the positives outweighed the negatives on this one, and said the “warning bells” had stopped for him and he supported it.
Coun. Jason Lum spoke against an earlier motion to refer the matter back to staff, and he was against “any delay” that would further impede it, so he supported the application for table games, and urged his fellow council member to as well.
Coun. Jeff Shields said he hoped they could still have a discussion on the matter of extending the trailing payment deal for local groups, but saw no reason ultimately not to support the application.