Casino's gaming revenue shatters Richmond record

River Rock Casino poured $17,631,000 into city coffers this past year. - Richard Lam
River Rock Casino poured $17,631,000 into city coffers this past year.
— image credit: Richard Lam

Casino gamblers have handed the city a record take from River Rock Casino Resort, according to year-end financial statements from Richmond City Hall.

The River Road casino poured $17,631,000 into city coffers in 2013—up 13.1 per cent over the previous record-setting year of 2012.

City officials entered 2013 with low expectations—budgeting for just $12.4 million in gaming revenue. The cash is earmarked for Richmond Olympic Oval construction ($5 million), capital projects ($4.6 million), a repairs and maintenance fund ($1.4 million), grants ($748,000) and Richmond RCMP ($600,000).

That leaves civic politicians with $5,266,000 unspent casino cash.

City spokesperson Ted Townsend said the extra money goes into a gaming provision reserve account, "which council could make allocations from at their discretion."

Gaming funds will be spent in a similar fashion this year, although council has boosted its revenue expectations and plans to sink more money into capital projects.

By the end of this year, the Richmond Olympic Oval will have received a total of $50 million of financing from gamblers. The Olympic facility's share of the gaming revenue pie will end in 2015 and shift to the planned pool and seniors centre in Minoru Park.

Richmond's gaming revenue was relatively flat until 2011, when a rapid rise began. Townsend said the city budgets conservatively due to potential fluctuation.

"Generally, we try to use gaming funds for capital or other one-time expenses within our operating budget such as our yearly grants program and maintenance/repairs projects. That way if revenue fluctuates up or down, which it has, we’re not left scrambling to fund any repeating annual expense commitments," he said.

Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, a publicly traded company which owns River Rock and 16 other gaming properties, will release its year-end financial results after the markets close Wednesday.

Following third-quarter results last year, CEO Rod Baker said the strong results for his firm reflect gains from River Rock, but were offset by "persistent challenges" at Boulevard Casino in Coquitlam, which was relaunched in December as Hard Rock Casino Vancouver.

On the other side of Lulu Island, the City of New Westminster earned just one-third the gaming revenue of Richmond through its smaller Starlight Casino.

Cities receive 10 per cent of net gaming revenue from casinos within their jurisdiction. According to the latest statistics from the province, Richmond has received $136.7 million in gaming cash since 1999.

Last year also resulted in another windfall for the City of Richmond, which ended 2013 with an operating budget surplus of $5.5 million.

Richmond's casino revenues

2013: $17.6 million

2012: $15.6 million

2011: $13.7 million

2010: $12.6 million

2009: $11.9 million

2008: $12.2 million

2007: $12.8 million

2006: $12.2 million

*Source: City of Richmond

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