Vancouver ready to host gambling summit in April: Economic impact of about 1,500 delegates worth some $4.88 million

The Vancouver Sun

Thu 15 Dec 2005

Byline: Bruce Constantineau

Between 1,200 and 1,500 Canadian gambling industry representatives are expected to converge in Vancouver next year for the 10th annual Canadian Gaming Summit and Exhibition — the first time the $13-billion industry’s main trade show will be held in B.C.

City tourism officials estimate conference delegates will account for 4,800 hotel room nights throughout the city and directly spend about $2.05 million, creating a total economic impact of $4.88 million.

The newly formed Canadian Gaming Association bought the event from founder Ivan Sack and has partnered with professional event managers MediaEdge Communications to expand the annual conference into a major event, modelled after the hugely popular Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas.

“It made sense to acquire the event instead of going up head-to-head against it,” CGA president William Rutsey said in an interview. “After that, the next logical step was to bring professional event management to the show.”

The CGA, an industry trade association formed in March this year, represents an industry that includes casinos, lotteries, bingo operations and horse racing facilities and directly employs more than 50,000 people across Canada (100,000 if you include horse racing).

The number of people attending the event at the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre between April 24 and April 27 is expected to be at least 50 per cent more than the total attendees at the last conference in Niagara Falls.

CGA vice-president Paul Burns said the size of the B.C. gambling market, the attractiveness of Vancouver in the spring and the city’s proximity to Las Vegas — where many industry vendors and suppliers are located — should ensure strong attendance at the 2006 event.

Suppliers expected to participate in the show include slot machine manufacturers, table game suppliers, security companies, card and chip makers, hoteliers and talent agents.

Canadian gambling industry revenues have exploded in recent years as governments promote gambling as a way to generate public income. Future growth rates may not be as high but Rutsey expects the industry will still experience strong growth of “non-gaming amenities” like hotels, food and beverage operations and entertainment facilities, which represents one of the biggest trends in Canadian gambling.

“Ten years ago, gaming revenues in Nevada represented 75 to 80 per cent of all revenues but now it’s more like 50-50, with non-gaming revenues slightly ahead of gaming revenues,” he said.

Great Canadian Gaming Corp. representative Howard Blank said the conference will give the Richmond-based casino company a great opportunity to showcase its two biggest gambling and entertainment facilities in Richmond and Coquitlam.

He said the 1,000-seat theatre at its River Rock casino in Richmond has sold out virtually every performance since opening earlier this year and has attracted entertainers including Paul Anka, Joan Rivers, Eric Burdon and Burton Cumings. Roseanne Barr, Howie Mandel and James Brown will perform there early next year.

Rutsey, meanwhile, said problem gambling remains a hot issue with many industry opponents but he stressed every province has responsible gambling programs and initiatives and noted Ontario spends $36 million a year on treatment and prevention. He said modern slot machines have built-in controls and features to try to curb problem gambling.

“Fifteen to 20 years ago, a slot machine was kind of like a car without an airbag,” Rutsey said. “But now they have features that keep track of the amount of money you’ve spent and how much you’re up or down. Some VLT machines also deliver a responsible gaming message when you sit down to play.”

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