As the border city on the West Coast of North America, Victoria (and Vancouver Island in general) makes for great tourist destination – and a great stop for those into gambling tourism as well. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the city’s major gambling house report some record-breaking income into the 2020s, as exciting new developments (literally) could make Victoria’s cutting-edge new offering one of the single most popular casinos in all of Canada…
The Casino View Royal first opened its doors in 2001 as the first large-scale gaming house in Victoria and the second to open on Vancouver Island. From the go, the Great Canadian Casino View Royal (often referred to as simply “the Royal”) was extremely popular among both locals and tourists – the latter, again thanks to the fantastic location of Victoria itself right across the border from the state of Washington.
At the turn of the century, Washington hosted a handful of casinos spread throughout the state and located on First Nations land only. The Royal began as a fairly standard sort of casino outlet: Shuttles transporting folks from downtown were immediately established along with the grand opening. A single restaurant, which changed a few times over the first 15 years, also occupied the premises. Some 550 slot machines and electronic games of that ilk were installed alongside 15 table games of the usual variety.
However, the Casino View Royal bore a “problem” that few casino operators would complain about : Popularity well beyond the scope of a smallish city: In 2001, Victoria proper counted a population of fewer than 75,000 and the Royal view population was just about 10% of this). In the early 2010s, a number of proposals were put forth at various political levels by parties seeking to establish another casino/casinos in Victoria and/or environs.
Much back-and-forth ensued over the problem, with proponents arguing vehemently for expansion of gaming (and thus tax revenue for the city and province), which they felt had been clearly demonstrated by the View Royal casino’s track record over its first 10 years of operation.
Those on the “con” side of expanding the Victoria casino market argued that a second outlet would dilute the quality of gambling in Victoria. Naturally, the Royal View’s operators, the Great Canadian Gaming (GCG) Corporation, steadfastly blocked any and all attempts to open another outlet in Victoria. Additionally, questions of ownership and management came up. The go-to for casino development in North America has always been Las Vegas- and other Nevada-based operators, but after the tumultuous 2000s, the limited trustworthiness of Vegas interests outweighed the knowhow as U.S. operators had acquired a nasty habit of building up casinos and more or less abandoning them at the first sign of crisis.
Indeed, the dependence on U.S.-based developers to build casinos in Canada may have come to a screeching halt once and for all – at least off First Nations land – in the mid-2000s. At this time, a takeover of the Las Vegas-based giant Caesars Entertainment by Harrah's Entertainment resulted in the surprise divestiture of a half-dozen casinos opened by Caesars, a couple just one year prior.
Amazingly, a fantastic compromise involving nearly all interested parties was announced in 2016. By mid-2018, Victoria would in fact be home to 66% more casino games – but the Royal View Casino would remain open, albeit in rebranded form.
The grand opening of the redone casino is set for May 2018 under the name “Elements Casino Victoria.” Sure, the name lacks a little of the grandiose flair of the lofty Great Canadian Casino View Royal, but what’s in a name, anyway? Tourist will instantly know to come to Victoria to find the casino, and the “Elements” bit … well, you figure that out.
The new Elements Casino Victoria increases the bank of slot machines and video poker to 800, while table games will jump from 15 to 25. Included in the renovations and extensions will be a 600-seat performing arts venue. This last addon may have been a deal-clincher for certain politicos; View Royal mayor David Screech certainly touts the entertainment centre as of high cultural importance: “Having an entertainment venue of such calibre on Vancouver Island is a very important milestone as we will now be in the position to be a regional draw for the entire lower island marketplace,” he stated in 2017.
AND GCG has grand ideas about the expansion’s effect on the casino industry locally. One GCG executive was quoted as claiming that “Introducing Elements Casino Victoria to the Great Canadian family of properties will be a momentous occasion for us, as the new venue will be [among] the ranks of River Rock Casino Resort, Hard Rock Casino Vancouver and Elements Casino in Surrey.”
One sort of gambling of which Vancouver Island has no shortage is good old B-I-N-G-O: As of this writing, some 25 outlets throughout the island were open for business and offering regular gaming throughout the week. Within the greater Victoria area, the biggest draws in bingo are the Playtime Gaming Victoria and Bingo Esquimalt.
For the traditionalist bingo player, Playtime Gaming Victoria offers daily specials that are far too extensive to be listed here. Also worthy of note is Playtime’s selection of electronic bingo machines, whose increasing popularity may imply expansion of this sort of bingo gaming in Victoria, Canada and beyond.
Bingo Esquimalt, the first large-scale bingo hall established on Vancouver Island, puts the emphasis on customer service, proudly touting their customer service awards and visitor reviews. Open 13 hours a day (10 a.m. to 11 p.m.), seven days a week, Bingo Esquimalt even offers newbies free paying advice and instruction – This has got to be about decorum and etiquette, because who the hell doesn’t know how to play bingo…?