New B.C. Place casino proposal resurrects Vancouver Not Vegas critics
A proposal to double the size of a relocated Edgewater Casino is up for review.
The city’s development-permit board next Monday (December 16) will take a peek at plans by casino owner Paragon Holdings, a company based in Las Vegas.
Currently at the Plaza of Nations (750 Pacific Boulevard), Edgewater is moving across the street and west to a one-hectare site near B.C. Place.
Council approved the area rezoning for a hotel, entertainment, and gambling complex, including the relocated Edgewater, in a unanimous vote on April 19, 2011. But with that same vote, council rejected Paragon’s bid to increase the casino’s permitted 600 slot machines to 1,500 and gambling tables from 75 to 150.
Council enacted the rezoning bylaw on November 29, 2011, and its terms are cited in Paragon’s new application for a bigger casino that would have only the original 600 slot machines and 75 gaming tables.
According to Paragon’s design rationale, the zoning bylaw provides that the total floor area for gambling activity should not exceed 10,600 square metres, or approximately 114,000 square feet.
“The Applicant proposes a gaming floor area of approximately 72,000 square feet which it believes is the minimum effective area to adequately merchandise the relocated 600 slot machines and 75 table games in a purpose built, high quality, and exclusive gaming experience,” the document states.
The paper notes that the existing Edgewater Casino has a gambling-floor area of about 36,697 square feet.
It also points out that the current casino building was not specifically built for gambling and “both the main floor and the mezzanine are irregularly shaped and not capable at any one time of offering the full complement of 600 slot machines and 75 table games”.
“The resulting presentation is substandard: a ‘slot house’ casino with extensive rows of densely packed slot machines and table games,” the document explains. “This type of casino offering is more typically found in truck stops or industrial areas, and is not the type of gaming experience the Applicant wants to present in downtown Vancouver.”
Coun. Kerry Jang indicated that the development does not need council’s approval.
“It’s because two years ago we set the bylaw that the development-permit board is working by,” Jang told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
The Vision Vancouver councillor also emphasized that there is no casino expansion.
“Two years ago, when we dealt with the casino, we said no expansion,” Jang said. “And we limited the floor space; we limited the number of games and types of games. And I know that the staff have looked at the plans for the current application to make sure that there’s no future growth of the floor space.”
A citizen-based group that fought Paragon’s first application has come back to life. The Vancouver Not Vegas coalition has started a campaign to have the company’s new application referred back to council for review.
The coalition is also calling for a comprehensive harm-reduction strategy in light of the report last October by provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall indicating that more should be done to battle gambling addiction in B.C.
The new casino will be built on land owned by the B.C. Pavilion Corporation, a provincial Crown entity.
Sandy Garossino of the Vancouver Not Vegas coalition noted that a bigger location opens up an opportunity for the casino to later ask for more slot machines and gaming tables.
“Vancouverites were looking for a permanent solution in 2011, and we are still looking for a permanent solution,” Garossino told the Straight by phone.
Paragon is proposing a mixed-use building that includes two hotel towers of 15 and 25 storeys. A public notice released by city hall in October notes that the building will also feature restaurant, gym, and spa uses. The building will have a total floor area of 695,812 square feet, and there will be five levels of underground parking for 1,200 cars.