Casino moratorium sought as B.C. Place proposal heads to public hearing

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      Public pressure is growing for more consultation on a proposal to build what would be the largest casino complex in Western Canada.

      Vancouver, Not Vegas, a coalition of community groups opposed to the proposed casino expansion next to B.C. Place, predicts there will be “significant attendance” at a public hearing on the plan that begins on Thursday (February 17) at 7:30 p.m. at Vancouver City Hall.

      Sandy Garossino, a member of the coalition, said the group’s single most resounding concern is a lack of adequate information and public consultation on the proposal. The coalition want a moratorium on all casino expansion in the city until a public review of gambling policy is conducted.

      “Vancouver city council on February 1 unanimously passed a resolution calling for a full public review of gaming policy, and we’re asking council to back that up by halting this until we know all the information we need to know to make informed decisions about this,” Garossino told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      In March 2010, Premier Gordon Campbell announced plans for a $450-million entertainment complex attached to B.C. Place. The proposal would see Edgewater Casino relocated to a site adjacent to B.C. Place and expanded to a 680,000-square-foot complex, including two hotels, restaurants, and up to 1,500 slot machines and 150 gambling tables.

      Douglas College criminologist Colin Campbell said no broad public review has been conducted into the gambling industry.

      "In Canada, especially British Columbia, there has never been a public inquiry to seriously look at the social, the economic, the political impacts of gaming, and now we have big, multinational corporations coming to British Columbia, and nobody really knows the overall economic impact," Campbell told the Straight by phone.

      Edmonton-based gambling expert Garry Smith told the Straight that a review of gambling in B.C. would be a positive step. “There’s never been a case that I know of in North America where the public is calling for more gambling,” Smith, a gambling research specialist at the Alberta Gaming Research Institute, said by phone.

      “It’s developers, it’s [the] gambling industry, and of course the government is complicit with that because they get a share,” he added. “They’re lobbied hard by these other groups, and they tend to listen to them. There’s very little public consultation involved in gambling expansion, and there should be more.”

      The Vancouver, Not Vegas coalition’s concerns include the potential for increased gambling addiction, the impact on the community, and crime.

      Campbell called the staff report going to public hearing Thursday "anemic" with respect to crime and policing issues.

      "I don't think there's more than three or four sentences on policing and crime," he said. "Really, there is no capacity to police gaming since the RCMP disbanded its special enforcement team, so there's a huge void there."

      Smith said with any gambling expansion there’s a potential for increased problem gambling. He noted that electronic machines, including slots, are of particular concern.

      Tamara Hicks, the director of corporate affairs and strategic communications for Paragon Gaming, the Las Vegas–based company that operates Edgewater Casino, said a lot of outreach has been conducted with the business community on the project.

      She noted that Paragon Development Ltd. will create more than 5,500 jobs during construction and between 1,700 to 1,900 jobs during operation.

      “We’re not looking to take away business from anybody,” she said. “We’re looking at being additive to this market, bringing in international tourism, really helping the surrounding areas that we’ll be integrating with.”

      Smith argued the casino isn’t likely to be a major draw for international tourists. “[Tourists] may utilize it but that’s not their primary reason for going to Vancouver.”

      Bill Eadington, director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada in Reno, said the effect of an urban casino on surrounding businesses depends on urban-planning strategies that go with it.

      “A casino clearly brings a lot more people in the area, and if the surrounding neighbourhood is relatively attractive, there is going to be some spillover,” he said. “A lot of other urban-planning elements come into play as to how the rest of the neighbourhood is affected.”

      He noted successful examples of urban casinos include the Crown Casino in Melbourne, which led to neighbourhood revitalization.

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      24 Comments

      Sean Bickerton

      Feb 16, 2011 at 4:45pm

      Great article Yolanda. With all respect to Mr. Eadington, no one is going to fly all the way to Vancouver to play 1500 slot machines ... And Mr. Eadington should also now that the Director of the Nevada Gaming Commission just acknowledged on Feb 8 that 1/2 the casinos in America are in bankruptcy or receivership, and he predicted more bankruptcies are going to be announced in coming months. Council should vote against the massive expansion proposed to protect Vancouver's economy from that very real risk.

      Ken Lawson

      Feb 16, 2011 at 5:23pm

      It is not going to happen, Im not going to allow 2000 protesters to make decisions for me out of 600,000, this how the bikers got their way because of a wing nut Mayor who will be leaving at the end of Nov. Show some guts and put this to a city wide vote of all residents!

      RonS

      Feb 16, 2011 at 6:17pm

      Ken not in your wildest dreams will he be voted out. Dream on! This casino will be defeated!

      NDB

      Feb 16, 2011 at 6:23pm

      People, look at this for a second. Its a done deal.

      Why would Gordon Campbell's lying party pay 600 million on a new roof at the same time they are crying about how much the province will suffer for having to pay back 1.5 billion if the HST gets revoked? Its all BS. On one hand its a lot of money, on the other there is enough lying around for projects like a new roof??

      The roof was part of a back room deal to attract a casino owner to put a casino on that site. SImple as that. The upgrade to the roof is part of this casino development, and as you can all see...its already well underway.

      Another example of Gordon Campbell and the liberals making back room deals to line the pockets of themselfs and their friends. Nothing short of BC place burning to the ground will stop it.

      Remember to vote them out of power.

      Sven Crawson

      Feb 16, 2011 at 6:31pm

      Don't let the pretty, shiny colourful picture fool you, this casino is going to be a gigantic black box smack dab in the middle of Vancouver. The only street life around this behemoth will be beggars, drug dealers and gangs, who will use the casino to launder even more money than they do now at Edgewater.

      This casino is a huge mistake and the only people who will profit from is the American owner, Paragon Gaming, who has already bankrupted several of their own casinos south of the border. They see Vancouver as a fresh target for their corrupt business. Council should do the right thing and not allow this massive expansion.

      Steve Y

      Feb 16, 2011 at 10:50pm

      Am I the only one who thinks this won't really affect anything? They are replacing one casino with another slightly larger casino. And this is an epic tragedy because why exactly? Nor will it attract international tourists so it is neither good nor bad but I don't really understand why people would really give a damn.

      East Van Arts

      Feb 17, 2011 at 12:29am

      One hideous building is being used to justify one hideous enterprise.

      City Council must allow the voters to decide directly. This ridiculous casino project must be suspended now, and put to a referendum in November.

      When the house is burning, the first thing to do is pour water on it. This mega-casino scheme is unwanted, unwarranted, and unwelcome. The idea that it will attract "international tourists" is madness. If allowed to proceed, it will chiefly attract gambling addicts, many of whom are -- disproportionately -- older members of the Asian community. This is not progress.

      A referendum will stop the scheme in its tracks temporarily and, if approved by the voters, permanently.

      Now, if only we could undo the Liberals' half-billion dollar waste of our money on a new roof at BC Place. Look at it today: the ugliest structure in a generation. It looks like a flock of pterodactyls getting ready for a feeding frenzy.

      Come to think of it, not a bad simile for that which it seeks to justify.

      A November referendum will stop these schemes. Forever.

      Sven Crawson

      Feb 17, 2011 at 12:49am

      Ron Y: the casino is not slightly larger, it is 3X larger. Would it be okay to put this right in your neighbourhood instead? Would you like living just down the street from a giant Las Vas sized casino?

      Dead Frogs

      Feb 17, 2011 at 4:02am

      Who will stop Casino Gate? Apparently River Rock already has a lot of elderly being bussed in and actually forced to stick around all day..

      Charles Carroll

      Feb 17, 2011 at 7:54am

      I live right next to BC place. If you think a casino is no big deal, then vote to put it in your neighborhood. I for one, don't want it.