Slots on the Table in Vancouver

Representatives from Hastings Park will find out July 24 if slot machines will be allowed in the city of Vancouver, where the track is located. In the last eight months, three nearby municipalities have installed the machines, or added to existing slots, but Vancouver officials would not permit them. However, the election in November of a new mayor and council put the wheels in motion. In March, Hastings officials asked the council to consider allowing slots at the track. At their next meeting they will get their answer.

Phil Heard, president of Hastings Entertainment Inc., said he started pursuing the possibility of slots at the track last October, even before elections took place. The British Columbia Lottery Corporation governs how many slots are allowed in each location and said, if approved, the racetrack could get between 600 and 900 machines that could be operating by this time next year. Early estimates show as few as 600 machines could double the current average daily purses, which are just over $100,000 ($130,000 Canadian).

"We've told the city (if we get slots), we're going to spent $30-$45 million on improving the building," said Heard. "Not just for slots, but all areas (of the track)."

Woodbine Entertainment Group purchased Hastings Park last year and created the Hastings Entertainment entity. At the time, the possibility of slots was nil because of the current government, so Heard and Hastings Entertainment began pursuit of additional teletheaters in the area. Those are still in the works, but some of the cities where teletheaters were planned are among the latest to install slot machines.

"We haven't gotten municipalities to agree on them yet," said Heard. "They are vying for slots and they don't want the teletheaters to confuse the issue."

Even if Vancouver city officials grant the request for slots, the public would be allowed a commentary period on the decision. Heard said the proposed changes to Hastings Park to accommodate slots on the first floor of the grandstand would take eight months.