Before Paragon Gaming’s casino deal with the province was inked, BC Pavilion Corporation (PavCo) sought approval from city council in 2008 for a land development project at BC Place.
“It could have been a public-private partnership, but that office would have insisted on competitive bids,” said Doug McArthur, public policy professor at Simon Fraser University.
“So the government put it out as a land development project.”
By classifying the project under land development rather than as a public-private partnership, the province may have avoided the usual, lengthier process of evaluating competing proposals from different bidders.
Competitive bidding is essential if the government wants to maximize its return and protect against the perception of favouring a private party with government assets, McArthur said.
“Normally for a land deal it would be done by putting the land on the market and asking bidders to set out uses, bid prices and terms and conditions,” he said.
Counting the money
Casinos, not lotteries, have become the province’s main gambling profit centre.
In the 2009 fiscal year, B.C.’s 17 casinos accounted for $784 million, or 69 per cent, of the $1.13 billion in net gambling revenues collected by the province.
Ten years earlier, the government’s haul was $532 million with less than half, or $242 million, coming from casinos.
Despite generating a 292-per-cent increase in annual gaming revenue since 1995, the B.C. government surprised the charitable sector in 2010 by cutting the share allocated to it by tens of millions of dollars to $112.5. This is $18.5 million below 1995 levels, not adjusted for inflation.