Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said the city is interested in purchasing the Bingo Palace land when it closes next spring, but hasn’t made a decision yet.
Gateway Entertainment, who are building the new Cascade casino a block to the west on Eckhardt Avenue, acquired the bingo hall when they purchased Playtime Gaming last year.
Tanya Gabara, public relations officer with Gateway, said their management team has reviewed all the properties they acquired with the purchase of Playtime.
With the new casino preparing to open and a limited demand for bingo, Gabara said Gateway decided to close the bingo palace in March, when the new casino opens.
Bingo won’t be included in the offerings at the new casino, she said, adding that Gateway remains committed to the staff at the bingo operation, as they promised last December, when the operation was purchased. Bingo staff have a chance to transition to a comparable position within the new casino or apply for positions at other operations in Gateway’s network.
“There’s lots of opportunities for them moving forward,” said Gabara.
Should current employees wish to stay with bingo operations, they would have to move a distance.
“It would be here in the Lower Mainland. We have several community gaming centres that do bingo and slots,” said Gabara. “It would be a relocation for them, but definitely, that opportunity is there.”
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Jakubeit said the city had to consider purchasing the property after hearing it was going to be on the market.
“Whenever land becomes available adjacent to an existing park, it is certainly something you want to flag for consideration,” said Jakubeit. “King’s Park is very well used. It is a good location.”
The mayor said no decision has been made, and the purchase would have to be considered in context with the city budget, infrastructure deficit and the still-unfinished Parks and Recreation Master Plan.
“Unless it is below market (value) and there is an opportunity to grab it at an affordable price, I think we still have to wrestle with a few other questions before we pull the trigger,” said Jakubeit. “There is probably money in reserves, but is that the highest priority we should be putting it to? There are a lot of unanswered questions.”
Jakubeit said the city doesn’t have an overall strategy of acquiring the properties adjacent to King’s Park, but would certainly consider them on a case-by-case basis.
Should the city purchase the bingo palace land, Jakubeit said it would likely not be used as a parking lot.
“I think it would be more to add another soccer field or a tennis court or some sort of recreational amenity, certainly not a sheet of asphalt,” said Jakubeit.
But there is no hope the property could become a new home for the tennis bubble, which the city promised to find a new home for when it was taken down to make way for the South Okanagan Events Centre.
“The tarp itself decayed years ago. We did have the steel structure, which I think we no longer have,” said Jakubeit. “That has either been sold or is in too poor a condition.”
Jakubeit also said there are no plans to try operating the bingo operation as a revenue generator for the city.
“We had never talked about operating it ourselves. We have enough to do with the capacity we have and we wouldn’t want to add to it,” said Jakubeit. “Then we get into the whole social and moral question that the city shouldn’t be part of, in terms of running a gambling establishment or a liquor establishment.”