Metro Vancouver suburbs with casinos will be dealt a bad hand if the largest gambling complex in Western Canada is built in downtown Vancouver, according to some municipal politicians.
“We’re definitely concerned about the risk that Vancouver’s new casino could essentially be drawing away revenues from the suburbs, and from the rest of our businesses,” Coquitlam mayor Richard Stewart told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
Coquitlam’s Boulevard Casino, which has over 1,000 slot machines and 60 gambling tables, puts about $9 million a year in the city’s coffers, the mayor said.
“That pays for a lot of services in Coquitlam,” Stewart said. “Here I am, not particularly a gambling advocate, and yet if there are going to be casinos and some communities are going to get the revenue, then I do want Coquitlam to get its share of those revenues.”
Las Vegas–based Paragon Gaming Inc. has put forward a proposal to build a 680,000-square-foot development that would include two hotels, restaurants, stores, and entertainment venues. The casino floor would cover 114,000 square feet and have 1,500 slots and 150 gambling tables.
Attached to B.C. Place Stadium, the casino would outsize Richmond’s River Rock Casino Resort. With its 985 slot machines and 113 gambling tables, the River Rock is currently the largest casino in B.C.
The prospect of such a large casino in Vancouver taking some of the action away from the River Rock worries Richmond city councillor and former mayor Greg Halsey-Brandt.
“We have our casino here in Richmond, which contributes quite a bit of money, around $11 to $12 million a year to the city that we use for all kinds of programs,” Halsey-Brandt told the Straight in a phone interview. “Obviously, I’m not in favour of a huge casino in downtown Vancouver, which could take players away from our casino here. If it was one of a comparable size, I have no problem.”
Right now, Vancouver has two casinos. The one at Hastings Racecourse has 600 slot machines. It lies about four kilometres from downtown, which is the site of another gambling establishment, Edgewater Casino, which has 500 slots and 65 gambling tables.
Bought by Paragon in 2006, Edgewater’s operations would be expanded and moved to the nearby B.C. Place site in 2013, under the proposal.
With Vancouver’s two casinos as well as those in Coquitlam and Richmond, there are a total of eight casinos in Metro Vancouver.
One of these is the City of Langley’s Cascades Casino. It has 826 slot machines and 19 gambling tables. According to Mayor Peter Fassbender, the casino provides around $6 million a year to the city.
“The only concern that I have with ours or other casinos is more the social costs of casinos, in terms of problem gambling and those kinds of things,” Fassbender told the Straight in a phone interview. “Other than that, the community has definitely financially benefited from the casino here.”
Surrey has Fraser Downs Racetrack & Casino. It features 460 slot machines and 10 gambling tables.
New Westminster’s Starlight Casino is bigger than Surrey’s, with 850 slots and 44 gambling tables.
Burnaby city councillor Nick Volkow is proud of his city’s Grand Villa Casino, saying it’s “probably the number one casino in the Lower Mainland”. Grand Villa has 1,000 slot machines and over 50 gambling tables.
Volkow conceded that the proposed mega-casino in Vancouver may have “some business impact” on Burnaby’s gambling establishment. However, he cautioned that the new casino complex may not generate the amount of business that proponents are claiming.
“I think Vancouver is getting a pig and a poke, to be quite honest,” Volkow told the Straight in a phone interview.
The City of Vancouver expects $17 million annually in gambling revenues from the proposed B.C. Place casino. Vancouver city council will start public hearings on the proposal on Monday (March 7).