Casino company shelves plans for expansion

A CAD 50-million casino expansion for downtown Nanaimo is on hold until at least 2010.

The Great Canadian Casino Company, which operates the Nanaimo casino, has shelved all its expansion plans for many of its 17 B.C. casinos, while the U.S.-based lending squeeze plays itself out on the world economic stage.

„We are pushing most of our projects into 2010 so any work that was going to commence in 2009 has been moved into the next year, given the uncertainty in the bond and debt markets in the United States and in Canada,“ said Howard Blank, spokesman for the B.C. company that owns the Terminal Avenue casino.

„We haven’t been hurt like in the United States but we are being prudent so we don’t get hurt. We are taking proactive steps now as opposed to taking reactive steps in future.“
The delay affects plans to more than double (to 45,000 square feet) the casino adjacent to Port Place Shopping Centre.

While the company has never announced a timetable for its expansion plans, it got a development permit from city council in July after submitting plans for a 23,000-square-foot addition facing Terminal Avenue, underground parking for 200 vehicles, then demolishing its existing 19,000-square-foot casino and replacing it with a 22,000-square-foot building with another 280 parking spaces.

The expansion would see another 225 slot machines added. The slots and gaming tables are a major source of tax revenues for the city, currently generating about CAD 3 million a year.

The company, owned by the B.C. Lottery Corporation, has been upgrading many of its B.C. casinos in hopes of attracting more players and boosting revenues. The casino’s expansion plans coincide with plan for a major renovation to the shopping centre.

The company will watch economic indicators for the next few months before deciding its next move.

„We don’t know what the outcome is going to be. It could be a six-month delay, it could be a year,“ said Blank. „But at least we’re taking proactive steps for our shareholders to ensure we have a solid company for them.“