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Old Posted Nov 14, 2007, 7:09 AM
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SpongeG SpongeG is online now
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Lines form for racetrack slots

would be nice to see the racetrack brought up to a better state

Lines form for racetrack slots

With little advance notice, the new lounge was filled to capacity on opening day

Great Canadian Gaming Corp. didn't run any ads to say it would be opening its slot-machine lounge at Hastings Park Racecourse on Saturday morning. But there was still a lineup to get in, and the room was filled to capacity, according to company executive Howard Blank.

How did people find out? "That's a good question," said Blank, Great Canadian's vice-president of media and entertainment.

"Maybe it was friends at the track who told them. It was on the evening news, so they must have heard the news."

The Hastings Racecourse gambling room that opened Saturday is a temporary facility with 150 slot machines and an off-track betting parlour. But it will grow into the controversial $40-million remake of Hastings Racecourse, which will eventually include a casino with as many as 600 slots built beneath the track's grandstand.

Great Canadian's long-sought expansion of Hastings Racecourse has been subject of a court challenge by a community group opposed to putting slots into the facility.

The Hastings Park Conservancy is still appealing a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that rejected its argument that the City of Vancouver bylaw allowing slots at the track be quashed. The appeal hearing is scheduled for Jan. 29, 2008.

Blank said Great Canadian Gaming, the owner of Hastings Racecourse, proceeded with plans at the site because the company isn't a party in the court action.

He said progress in completing the first phase at Hastings Racecourse was slow because the company needed to finalize an operator-services agreement with the B.C. Lottery Corp., as well as get a development permit and lease with the City of Vancouver.

"It was hard to do advanced marketing [of the Hastings Racecourse slots opening] when we weren't sure exactly when it would be open," Blank said.

However, he added that if the Hastings Conservancy's appeal succeeds, Great Canadian would "have to start back at the beginning, and the [temporary slots] facility may have to be closed."

In the meantime, a portion of revenue from the Hastings Racecourse slot machines will be shared with the horse-racing operations so that race purses can be increased, Blank said.

The overall plan calls for constructing a permanent casino beneath the grandstand, the addition of luxury skyboxes, new restaurants, meeting rooms and entertainment options, all which are to be complete within the next three years.

Blank said Great Canadian has plans to add 90 new slots at the Fraser Downs Racetrack and Casino in Surrey, which already has 400 slot machines.

Great Canadian's shares declined 10 cents to close at $14.18 in trading Monday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Last week, Great Canadian Gaming reported a $12.6-million profit for its third quarter ending Sept. 30 on revenue of $103.2 million, compared with a $14.1-million loss on $100.2 million in revenue in the same quarter a year ago.

In its financial results, Great Canadian credited its three-per-cent rise in revenues to stronger results from its Boulevard Casino in Coquitlam and improved performance of racing operations, which offset revenue declines at its flagship River Rock property in Richmond and Nova Scotia casinos.

The company said the implementation of further operating and corporate expense efficiencies also helped results.


Gamblers can belly up to any one of 4,408 slot machines at casinos around Metro Vancouver now that Hastings Park has added 150 of the one-armed bandits. By December, that number will jump to 5,258 with the opening of Gateway Casinos and Entertainment's Starlight Casino in New Westminster.

Here's where the other slot machines are located:

Great Canadian Gaming Corp.

River Rock Casino and Resort (Richmond) 918

Boulevard Casino (Coquitlam) 950

Fraser Downs Racetrack Casino (Surrey) 400

Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Cascades Casino (Langley) 530

Burnaby Villa Casino (Burnaby) 679

Royal City Star Riverboat Casino (New Westminster) 341

Starlight Casino (New Westminster) 850*

Paragon Gaming Edgewater Casino (Vancouver) 500

* To open in December

Source: B.C. Lottery Corp., Great Canadian Gaming Corp., Gateway Casinos Income Fund.

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