Casino Poll Released

By Stanley Tromp, The Georgia Straight.  April 15-22, 1999



During the past year, the NDP government has granted approval-in-principle to eight destination-resort casinos, even though a BC Lottery Corporation poll showed widespread public ambivalence toward casino expansion.

The Straight recently obtained the poll, completed in February 1998, after filing an appeal with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The Lottery Corporation had previously withheld release of the poll, despite a section in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act stating that all polls must be made public without exception.

The BCLC paid the Angus Reid Group $64,000 to survey 2,175 people in 15 B.C. communities, although not Vancouver. The pollster found that “the overall pattern of resignation rather than strong enthusiasm about gambling in the province suggests that most members of the public need reassurance that gambling expansion is well regulated and ultimately in the best interest of their community.”

The pollster also concluded that arguments about potential revenue or job creation “would have the potential to win over some of the large segment of the population that is ambivalent about casino expansion.”

The poll found acceptance of charitable casinos highest in the Interior and a few Lower Mainland suburbs that already have limited existing casinos: Cranbrook-Kimberly, Surrey, Mission-Abbotsford, Kamloops and Prince George. Opposition was strongest on Vancouver Island and in Penticton, Osoyoos, Squamish-Whistler and Langley.

Approval for “a destination casino with tourist appeal” was highest in Osoyoos, Kamloops, Mission-Abbotsford, Prince George, and Squamish-Whistler – because it “could have a favourable impact on the community,” the pollster wrote. Victoria, Penticton, Vancouver Island, Langley and Richmond were most opposed.

At least one-quarter of all those polled in each community were opposed to native-run casinos, the highest aversion to any casino type. Penticton was most resistant to “a casino operated on native land near your community by a native band.” Despite the poll showing that 42 percent of the respondents in Penticton called the idea of a nearby native casino “completely unacceptable,” the B.C. government eight months later gave approval-in-principle for two destination casinos near Penticton, one of them to be run by a native band. 

The NDP government has said it will only allow casinos in areas where they have “demonstrable local government support.”