17 September 2020 Posted By : Winston Szeto

Fort St. John urges province to reopen casinos as city revenue shrinks

The mayor of Fort St. John, B.C., is asking the provincial government to show its cards on reopening casinos, as the pandemic continues to drain municipal coffers.

In a letter to Premier John Horgan, Mayor Lori Ackerman said her town's revenue has shrunk since mid-March from nearly $900,000 last fiscal year to around $270,000 during the first six months of this fiscal year, due to the provincially mandated closure of gambling facilities.

Ackerman said the loss of gaming revenue may lead to a reduction in community services, such as parks and recreational areas, if taxpayers don't want to see their bills increased by three per cent.

"We would have to take a look at how to trim those services that would use that money," the mayor told Carolina De Ryk, the host of CBC's Daybreak North.

But public finance isn't the only thing that's suffering.

"I have 107 people who are unemployed that have no idea when they're going to see their next paycheque. I have people who are experiencing mental health issues as a result of this. Their families are being split up. Their vehicles are being repossessed," said Ackerman.

In a written statement to CBC News, the B.C. Ministry of Health said it has no firm date for the reopening of casinos. The ministry says it will look at factors such as enclosed spaces, ventilation and older populations visiting casinos when deciding whether to allow gaming centres to resume operation.

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