Letter from retired judge Ian Pitfield


Retired BC judge Ian Pitfield

PavCo boss needs to get casino facts straight

Re: “More facts than fiction needed in gambling debate” – Podium op/ed from BC Pavilion Corp. CEO Warren Buckley – issue 1116; March 15-21)

Warren Buckley seems to have difficulty differentiating between fiction and fact.

He says that “at 110,000 square feet the casino is about the size of a single football field.” The city planning report calls for a casino of up to 114,000 square feet. A quick Google search of football-field dimensions yields the answer of 57,600 square feet – roughly half the size of the proposed casino. While that is the American football field, the comparable Canadian playing surface is 64,350 square feet, excluding the end zones. Whatever dimensions are used, the fact is that at 114,000 square feet, the casino would be 2.62 acres. It’s certainly not “about the size” of one football field.

One can have about as much confidence in Mr. Buckley’s calculation as one can have in his statement that the City of Vancouver will derive $23 million annually from the operation of the proposed casino-hotel complex. Approximately $6.3 million is already earned from the existing Edgewater Casino. Another $6 million will come from property taxes.

Neither PavCo nor the BC Lottery Corp. (BCLC) acknowledges that property tax will be payable, however the proposed site is developed. The real increase in revenue to the city would then be a maximum of $11 to $12 million. For many reasons that estimate is more likely fiction than fact.

The BCLC revenue estimates are based on assumed hotel occupancy of about 65% in the first year of operation and 75% in the third and subsequent years. If realized, the occupancy rate would exceed that of other hotels in the city and represent, in part at least, a transfer of occupancy from existing hotels that have paid their share of taxes over many years.

The estimate assumes that 200,000 “non-local” or destination gamblers will come to town in year 1 and 610,000 will arrive annually in the third and subsequent years.

Where will they come from? No one knows, and the BCLC doesn’t say.

Even a reputable accounting firm that compiled a tabulation of the revenue estimates does not stand behind the numbers.

The Deloitte report disclaims any responsibility for the accuracy of the estimates saying that it has used only information supplied to the firm by the BCLC or its service provider.

Even the BCLC seems to doubt its own numbers.

In presentations to city council, it reduced its return projection to between $12 million and $14 million in addition to property taxes, and not the $17 million suggested in the Deloitte report. That substantially reduced number, too, is quite likely more fiction than fact. After all, the BCLC said the city would derive about $12 million annually from the existing Edgewater Casino. In fact, the revenue has never exceeded $7 million.

How can one have confidence in any estimate the BCLC puts forth?

Yes, debate should be based on fact and not fiction or dreamy estimates. PavCo and the BCLC would do well to start differentiating between the two.

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Pitfield, Vancouver Not Vegas Coalition supporter

This letter from Business in Vancouver April 5-11, 2011; issue 1119

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2 Responses to Letter from retired judge Ian Pitfield

  1. New documents from BCLC raise more questions about PavCo’s process. See my story on therealstory.ca

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