Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation’s Future in Question – Revenue Takes Another Tumble

Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation’s Future in Question – Revenue Takes Another Tumble

It is no secret that the casino in Halifax has been facing financial difficulties long before the appearance of Covid-19. The unprecedented situation, its unpredictability and the ongoing lockdowns have only served to exacerbate the casino’s economic issues, and Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation has admitted that the future of the casino will have to be discussed once the pandemic is under control.

Read about 2020 a difficult year for casinos.

Casino Nova Scotia in Halifax revenues have been in decline for over a decade, and it has been operating at an “unsustainable” level for over 15 years, after having reached its peak in the mid-2000s.

“In our peak year, which would have been in the mid-2000s, we probably did about $75 million in revenue, and then over time it decreased by 30 percent,” said Bob MacKinnon, the CEO of Nova Scotia Gaming, the Crown corporation that oversees the gaming business in the province. “So certainly, that would have been unsustainable.”

Read about more casino closures.

To try and save the casino, the gaming corporation is even considering moving away from the waterfront location which the casino has held since 2000. However, no final decisions will be made until Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

Giving us a clearer picture of the shrinking profits, Casino Nova Scotia had started out with 750 employees at the start of 2000, but this number steadily decreased to a staff of around 300 workers. In addition, the casino reached a climax in 2006-2007 with a CA$74.5 million revenue. Over the years, that gradually fell to CA$54.1 million in 2014-2015. In the year before the pandemic, the gambling entity made CA$65.6 million, and just like all other casinos in Nova Scotia, suffered significant losses during the lockdown. The casino was closed in the first wave of restrictions in March 2020 and re-opened on October 5, 2020, only to be shut down once again at the end of November of the same year.

Casinos in Nova Scotia were given the green light to re-open in February 2021, but projections for the Halifax casino are still dismal. “If we come in around $9 million in 2021, that’s probably a reasonable estimate at this point in time,” MacKinnon said. Casinos can only operate at a 20% players’ capacity, dealing another heavy blow to the gambling venue.

Back in 2016, the drop in profits was chalked up to a ban on smoking, changing player preferences, and “rising competition from First Nations VLTS and the internet”. This and the investment needed for the maintenance and upkeep of the building made Nova Scotia Gaming start to consider a change in locations in 2014.

McKinnon said, “We thought, OK, if we’re going to be looking at longer-term investments in the building, should we consider whether we should relocate? So that’s when we undertook the assessment as to what other options might be there.”

The criteria for the ideal building includes easy accessibility by car or other means of transportation, an existing available building to reduce the capital needed to move, and the cost of the space. However, all plans have been suspended while the pandemic is ongoing.

“It’s really too early for us to say when we’re going to open up the file again and give this another look,” McKinnon said. “We just need to understand more about what the post-pandemic world is going to look like before we spend much effort and certainly before we spend any money on an investment, whether it’s an existing location or assessing others.”

McKinnon does see the possibility of Nova Scotia returning to its pre-pandemic ways. In a step in this direction, the local government is going to expand its gaming sector by launching an online gambling platform with the help of the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation in the near future.

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