The City of Richmond has a unique problem: it has too much money and it does not know how to spend it. To be more precise, it has a surplus of $15 million in gaming funds.
The municipal government’s share of River Rock Casino Resort’s revenues ballooned to $21 million in 2014, up from $12.6 million in 2010 and $7.5 million in 2004 when the casino-hotel destination first opened.
Since 2011, the casino’s gaming tables and slot machines have consistently collected over $300 million annually for the British Columbia Lottery Corporation. In the years to come, revenues at B.C.’s largest casino are only expected to continue to grow.
Revenues generated for the City to date have gone towards capital projects, including the municipal government’s share of the costs for building the Richmond Olympic Oval and the $80 million recreation complex at Minoru Park now being built.
Another $11.6 million is being spent this year on capital projects such as new fire hall and community centre buildings. The government also uses about $600,000 annually to cover the costs of hiring four RCMP officers to police the casino.
Earlier this week, Richmond City Council unanimously approved a plan to shift $3 million into a new ‘Council Community Initiatives’ account to cover one-time initiatives for arts and culture, environmental, heritage, safety and infrastructure projects. An additional sum of $400,000 will be added to the account in 2016, which will be followed by future contributions of two per cent of annual gaming revenues.
This will supplement existing gaming revenues that already go towards supporting these initiatives.
Meanwhile, the remaining balance of the surplus – $12 million – will go towards the municipality’s capital reserves account. Council will vote on approving these plans next week.
However, the municipality will not be able to depend on a perpetual steady stream of growing gaming revenues: in 2008, the provincial government agreed to handover the River Rock Casino Resort property to the Musqueam First Nation in 2040.
For 2015, gaming revenues are expected to account for about 5 per cent of Richmond’s total revenues.