Much has already been written about the anticipated new government in British Columbia, created through the NDP/Green party alliance—the first nonLiberal government since 2001—and much more is yet to come. The policy goals outlined in the joint agreement between the two parties are lofty and include the implementation of proportional representation, creating an “emerging economy” task force, cancelling (certainly rethinking) the Kinder Morgan pipeline as well as raising carbon taxes, minimum wages and health benefits.
Gaming of any form is not mentioned in the alliance agreement between the two parties. However, tucked away on page 85 of Working for You, the BC NDP Platform, is the statement:
We will negotiate with First Nations leadership and communities about expanding opportunities for their share of BC’s gaming industry.
What does (or could) this mean? And what are the implications for the British Columbia Lottery Corporation, B.C.’s casino service providers and B.C.’s first nations?
A little history is helpful. In 1997 the government of the day (an NDP government, no less) made the decision to permit fullservice casinos in the province. To that point, only table game casinos were permitted (outside annual seasonal fairs). Then with KPMG, I was active in the competitive bidding process that resulted in the baseline for much of today’s current casino offering across the province. Various First Nations, together with non-First Nation partners, were active proponents in this open competition held in 1997/1998. For numerous reasons, applicable to the process and the participants, only one First Nation submission was accepted.
Roll forward to 2017 by which time most of the casinos approved through the 1997/1998 competitive process have expanded, many have been relocated and all are competing in a provincial marketplace augmented with more casinos as well as charity gaming clubs (a unique and creative BCLC product line designed to service smaller and/or suburban population centres).
Despite the current supply offering, interest in the B.C. gaming industry remains strong…with the strongest interest in the greater Vancouver area. Among the interest parties are three First Nations with hereditary lands proximate to greater Vancouver including the Squamish First Nation (adjacent to North and West Vancouver), the TsleilWaututh First Nation (adjacent to Delta) and the Tsawwassen First Nation. Interestingly, Tsawwassen First Nation was one of the groups at the table in 1997/1998.
B.C.’s new government has set aggressive policy goals…all of which cost money. A need for new revenue streams and a commitment (on the part of the NDP) to expand First Nation gaming opportunities could spell interesting times in the B.C. casino industry.