Casino corporation defends Vision endorsement

Larry Campbell sits on board of Great Canadian Gaming

A Great Canadian Gaming executive says it doesn't matter that former mayor Larry Campbell endorsed the ruling Vision Vancouver while his company negotiates with city hall for a new lease at Hastings Racecourse.

"He's a board member, board members only see the vision and future of our company," GCG vice-president Howard Blank told the Courier. "If a management member made a comment like that there would be a serious issue. He has nothing to do with the negotiations."

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Liberal senator Campbell, who was mayor from 2002-2005, cast the deciding vote in 2004 to allow slot machines at Hastings and was appointed a GCG director in 2008.

GCG's five-year term at the track ends Nov. 9, 2012. City hall agreed Oct. 31 to continue bargaining. "Talks are going well and obviously the company is spending considerable time and effort on that property," Blank said. "If we weren't interested, we wouldn't be talking."

The Richmond-based company wrote-off $46.8 million in "long-lived assets" at the track and balked at a 15-year renewal clause if the city required it to build a parkade and renovate the aging backstretch buildings. "If that was a condition on the fulfilling of the lease, we cannot move forward," Blank said in March. Blank wouldn't comment on whether lease improvements remains an issue. GCG announced a five per cent revenue boost to $101 million for the quarter ended Sept. 30. It did not address this year's 16 per cent slide in racetrack revenues during a Nov. 10 conference call with stock analysts. City of Vancouver's cut of the racing's gambling profits has fallen by almost $48,000 over the last 12 months to $1.23 million.

In 2003, city staff forecast $6.5 million in annual royalties. Blank declined to comment on speculation that GCG has discussed potential involvement with Paragon Gaming in its proposed, $450 million casino/hotel complex next to B.C. Place Stadium.

In April, city council rejected a casino expansion application but said Paragon could move Edgewater Casino's existing licence to a complex connected to B.C. Place. Flagship River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond opened a $24-million, 193-room hotel tower Oct. 17. GCG wants to build a $60-million, 181-room hotel and conference facility by December 2013 at Boulevard Casino in Coquitlam. GCG withdrew a bid to operate Ontario's Casino Rama but disclosed a new $350 million revolving credit through July 2016.

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