Vancouver council hears from medical officer, police at third night of B.C. Place casino hearing

Vancouver city council began a third night of public hearings Monday into the proposed expansion of Edgewater Casino by directing questions to Vancouver Coastal Health medical officer John Carsley and deputy Vancouver police chief Warren Lemcke.

Councillors’ questions to Carsley came in follow-up to a report the physician sent to council last week recommending the city reject the proposed casino expansion.

Carsley told council there are an estimated 133,000 to 185,000 problem gamblers in the province, including an estimated 19,000 to 43,000 severe problem gamblers.

Vision Vancouver Councillor Andrea Reimer questioned Carsley on why he suggested council reject the project given the contradictory evidence on the impacts of gambling expansion.

“We’re talking about a very common and very severe disorder,” replied Carsley. “So if we’re wrong, in the sense if you make the wrong decision, then the impact will be significant.”

Councillors directed multiple questions to Lemcke about enforcement at Vancouver casinos, but the deputy chief said casinos aren’t a major problem for police. He said officers respond to calls from Edgewater Casino about 70 times a year on average.

When asked by COPE Councillor David Cadman how many times police have been called to casinos about large quantities of cash, Lemcke said “zero”.

“I’m not sure that people are walking into casinos with duffle bags full of money, I just don’t think that that’s happening,” he said. “I think that there’s money laundering that goes on at casinos, but I don’t think it happens in that fashion.”

Lemcke did indicate there’s a potential concern the casino complex could be a drain on police resources, particularly during events at B.C. Place.

“If this does go ahead and if all this goes in and we start to get a lot of calls for service there and it starts to deplete police resources, if it means that we can’t get to other calls as quick as we can because we’re tied up here, then we’re going to come forward and say something needs to be done,” he said.

Lemcke said the casino isn’t his main concern, but the “entire package,” including the two hotels, bars and restaurants.

“Because of our experience with the current casino, I’m actually more concerned about bars and night clubs,” said Lemcke.

Other speakers Monday included former NPA councillor Peter Ladner and former city planner Nathan Edelson. Both expressed their opposition to the proposal.

Ladner argued that while there have been a few “low-profile” open houses on the proposal, there has been “no serious public consultation or analysis.”

Other opponents to the project that addressed council on Monday included Vancouver Not Vegas organizer Sandy Garossino, Sean Bickerton of the False Creek Residents’ Association, and Sheila Paterson of the Council of Seniors Organizations of B.C.

Council also heard from many Edgewater Casino employees Monday who issued pleas to councillors to protect their jobs.

“We’re here begging for our jobs and for this expansion to go through,” said single mother Arishta Bhan during an emotional address to council.

Edgewater casino dealer Jeff Reynolds said the company is trying to expand, and that following major events there are “hundreds of people” circling the tables waiting for a seat.

The hearing, which recessed at about 11 p.m. Monday evening, will reconvene on April 12, unless an earlier date is added to the schedule.

Council has now heard from about 50 of the 200 speakers scheduled to address council on the proposed casino complex.

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7 Comments

glen p robbins

Mar 15, 2011 at 8:29am

It would be interesting to investigate further the "low profile" effort to date relative to the "serious public consultation and analysis" contemplated by Peter Ladner.

For me, if I'm councillor I would vote against this - notwithstanding other issues-- on Edgewater's threat to abandon gambling altogether on the "No". The proponent/opponent that starts the threat game in an sensitive public policy debate is the one you reject---simple.

Second Nation

Mar 15, 2011 at 10:25am

This is probably one of the worst types of development for a city. How often would the majority of us use a mega-casino? Once a year? Never?

Contrast that with a centre for theater/ visual arts/ children's education/ a large public square/ ...

I know what I'd use more.

Peter F

Mar 15, 2011 at 10:29am

Glen, If you stop the expansion because of Health and Police matters, how could a councillor possibly support the renewal of the Casino license three year hence? Furthermore, the current casino site (BC Pavillion) is slated for redevelopment (VAG? housing, park but not a casino). So these employees are very concerned about their job. Where will edgewater move too?

Sven Crawson

Mar 15, 2011 at 1:05pm

Edgewater/Paragon are using the jobs of these employees as a bargaining chip to get their huge expanded casino. If these union workers have any beef with anyone, it should be the people who sign their checks. Instead, they are paraded in front of Council in yellow t-shirts that say "Save Our Jobs" while saying things like "Edgewater made my dreams come true" or "if the casino isn't made larger, I will lose my job." This is nothing but psychological blackmail and a gross manipulation of their employees.

Anonymous: The Sequel

Mar 15, 2011 at 2:00pm

People are putting serious spin on the "threat" that Paragon is supposedly throwing at their employees. It has been stated by many employees that they haven't been told that this expansion is the only way to keep their jobs. They have been told by their employer that there are no other plans in place at the moment. The focus is solely on this application for rezoning. If it comes to pass that the application is denied, THAT is when further options will be explored. AT THIS MOMENT there is no contingency plan as the city and Paragon have been working together in good spirit for many years to finalize the details of this project. So, THERE IS A GOOD POSSIBILITY that any other options that surface if this application is rejected may not be financially viable from a business perspective. And, ANY business that does not have a viable operating structure at its disposal is going to close up shop.

THAT is why the employees fear for their jobs. Not because they have been threatened by their employer, but because of the massive uncertainty that befalls the Vancouver operations of Paragon Gaming should this proposal get denied. So, please get the facts straight before posting ludicrous claims such as Sven Crawson.

P.S. It should also be noted that the employees ARE NOT "...being paraded around in yellow t-shirts that say Save Our Jobs." The employees have expressed that they are there voluntarily. They are there of their own accord and are not being reimbursed for their time. In fact, I know that some of them have even sacrificed their daily wages in order to attend the proceedings. As for the yellow t-shirts? Again, a voluntary undertaking on the part of each individual to show solidarity. At no point were they told that they HAD to wear them. In fact, I do recall one speaker on behalf of the Edgewater employees was not wearing a yellow t-shirt at the proceedings on Monday night. IN YOUR EYES, I'm sure that his lack of yellow attire will translate to his dismissal based on your misrepresented perspective on Paragon as an employer.

Edgewater Employee

Mar 16, 2011 at 12:02pm

As an employee at Edgewater Casino I would like to express that the comment left by Anonymous: The Sequel is very accurate. At no time has Paragon threatened us. Nor are we being paraded around. We were told about the proceedings and asked if we'd like to participate without the fear of reprisal. Everything he/she says in the comment above is exactly how we feel.

He/she must know several of us that work at the Casino in order to have that much insight into our plight.

R U Kiddingme

Mar 16, 2011 at 10:29pm

I am sure that Edgewater people are showing loyalty! It's not all bad people. Hell I have worked in casinos, and I'm...uh... anyway, many of the other people were quite charming. But, face it, it is a scummy business. And not scummy like, well, we are selling this product at a 50% markup because it is awesomely popular. That's just sense. Gambling is predation on the innumerate. If it was predation on the illiterate then people would be more offended by it. If you cannot do math, then you can gamble and not feel like a moron. It is a business that relies on stupidity and addiction, kind of like Ke$ha videos but the victims can't turn it off. This business should be confined to small out of the way areas and hidden because we are ashamed of it.