Top Stories of 2011: Bingo hall sold to Great Canadian

Chilliwack Bingo Association members voted to sell all their assets to Great Canadian Gaming Corporation for a cool $10 million in May.

It was a decision that would change the gaming landscape in Chilliwack forever.

Chilliwack Bingo Association members voted as a group to sell all their assets to Great Canadian Gaming Corporation for a cool $10 million in May.

The reason for the keen corporate interest likely had something to do with the fact that Chilliwack Bingo logged the highest bingo revenues in the province, with an astounding $11.1 million in 2009-10, whereas Vancouver’s Planet Bingo came in second highest.

The acquisition by Great Canadian Gaming, a publicly traded company, included the Chilliwack Bingo Hall on Knight Road, and the five-acre site on Olds Drive where the plan is to build a Community Gaming Centre  in 2012.

The sale also provides for trailing payments to be shared by local charity groups over the next 20 years from gaming centre revenues.

Millions of dollars from local bingo profits have supported a range of local groups over the past 25 years, and the sale of Chilliwack Bingo was viewed by many as a way to ensure sustainability of those charities into the future.

City council approved an expansion of the Chilliwack Bingo operation in 2009 into a community gaming centre, which would feature slot machines for the first time in Chilliwack.

Update: As a publicly traded company, Great Canadian Gaming will be officially declaring the start of construction, probably in a formal announcement in the new year, said Great Canadian vice-president Howard Blank.

“But there are no timelines ready yet,” he said.

At the time of the sale, Great Canadian owned 10 casinos, four racetracks and two community gaming centres in B.C., Ontario, Nova Scotia and Washington state.

Site preparation is now underway at the site on Olds Drive near the Chilliwack Airport.

The new facility will offer bingo, slots, entertainment, restaurant and lounge dining, community meeting space, and more. The old bingo hall will continue to operate until the new one is ready to open.

“We’re anticipating when the Chilliwack facility is completed that we will have some really neat amenities to offer because wherever we build, our roots are in the community.”

Being a good corporate citizen is part of their core culture, Blank said.

“We think the people of Chilliwack will be very pleased with not only what we build, but how we handle ourselves in the community.”

jfeinberg@theprogress.com