The Vancouver city council has lifted its ban on slots, which means, if things progress as expected, Hastings Park racetrack could install as many as 900 slot machines by this time next year. On July 31 the council voted 5-4 to allow slots within the city limits. In October it will rule specifically on whether or not Hastings Park can install the machines.
"We're happy the vote went the way it did," said Phil Heard, president of Hastings Entertainment, the entity that operates Hastings Park for its parent company, Woodbine Entertainment Group. "This is a great first step because they've never gone this far before. There will be another vote in October and that will be the one that really gives us the OK."
Heard said 56 individuals asked to speak in front of the council on the slots ban. He estimated six of those people were against lifting the ban. Heard said most of the feedback he's received since the vote has been positive, particularly from trainers who were considering moves to other Canadian tracks that do offer slots, such as Stampede Park, Assiniboia Downs, or Fort Erie and Woodbine in Eastern Canada.
"We've been told by a number of trainers that if nothing happened and we weren't increasing our purses, they would start to look at other places," he said. "If that happened, it would be heading downward in a spiral. I can't see us lasting too long (in that scenario)."
A casino in downtown Vancouver and Hastings Park are the only two locations inside the city currently pursuing slots. Hastings received an estimate from the British Columbia Lottery Corp. that it could install between 600 and 900 machines. If 600 were installed, purses could double. The average daily outlay is now just over $100,000 ($130,000 Canadian). Heard said if the October vote is in favor of Hastings receiving the machines, they could be operational by next August.