New gaming centre wants more slots

Maple Ridge district will make more than a million dollars a year from slots

The B.C. Lottery Corp. wants to bump up the number of slot machines allowed in the new Chances Maple Ridge community gaming centre from 150 to 200.

If council agrees next week and the slots are installed, the district could rake in even more than the $819,341 it earned last year from the 100 slot machines currently in the gaming centre in the old Haney Bingo Plex.

The days of using that money for little extras, though, are gone because the first half of $1,050,000 in slot machine cash is already spoken for.

Half a million dollars will already go for downtown touch ups, Memorial Peace Park events, security and minor improvements around Maple Ridge.

And as of 2014, the next $550,000 of slot machine money will be plowed into an infrastructure improvement fund for roads and sewers.

That will cut in half the one-per-cent increase in property taxes charged to homeowners each year.

Any extras will have to come after that – which should still be doable, as Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin predicts there will be money left over after the allocations.

“We’ll still have capacity to do some improvements or projects,” such as public art.

“The biggest key for the gaming money is that it doesn’t go for ongoing programs.”

Allocating gaming bucks for ongoing programs could put those programs at risk if gaming money declines. Ten per cent of the money made in slot machines goes back to cities and towns.

Great Canadian Gaming Corp. expanded the Haney Bingo Plex on 224th Street and installed 100 slot machines in the fall of 2010.

Daykin pointed out that the new centre on Lougheed Highway at 227th Street may not open with the full complement of slot machines. An e-mail from B.C. Lotto confirmed that and said the building will open with 175 slots.

The Chances centre in Chilliwack opened with 150. But getting approval for 200 allows B.C. Lottery Corp. to add more machines if necessary.

The Maple Ridge Community Gaming Centre is to open in the fall, five years after receiving council approval for rezoning.

Finance general manager Paul Gill said it can’t be assumed that Maple Ridge will make double the revenue by doubling the number of slot machines.