Paragon Gaming Inc.'s casino track record questioned

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      The Las Vegas–based company that wants to build the biggest gambling complex in Western Canada next to B.C. Place Stadium doesn't run a casino like the Bellagio or the MGM Grand in its hometown.

      According to Burnaby-based UNITE HERE Local 40, which represents hotel and hospitality workers across B.C., Paragon Gaming Inc.'s only gambling operation in the U.S. doesn't even come close to those of the big American players.

      Based on the union's research, Paragon's Las Vegas casino is actually a neighbourhood sports bar with 15 slot machines. It's called the Creek Bar and Grill.

      UNITE HERE Local 40 notes in a paper that having the sports bar allows the company to maintain its gambling licence in Nevada.

      “We want to tell citizens of Vancouver who are concerned about good, stable jobs to oppose Paragon's casino because their track record doesn't show a company that appears to be able to handle the scale of developments that they're proposing for Vancouver,” UNITE HERE Local 40 director Lynn Flandera told the Straight by phone.

      Flandera said her local isn't against gambling, noting that its parent organization represents about 100,000 casino workers across North America.

      “Our concern is whether Paragon can supply good, stable jobs,” Flandera said.

      UNITE HERE Local 40's paper cited failed bids by Paragon to open casinos in Missouri and California, as well as in New Brunswick.

      Paragon has two gambling operations in Alberta, which are joint ventures with First Nations.

      According to the union, the Eagle River Casino in Whitecourt, a partnership with the Alexis First Nation, has 250 slot machines. The $60-million casino caters to long-haul truckers.

      The paper notes that Paragon also operates with the Enoch Cree Nation the $182-million River Cree Casino. The Enoch operation has 1,000 slots, 39 gambling tables, and a 249-room hotel. The casino serves customers of the West Edmonton Mall.

      In 2006, according to the paper, Paragon acquired Vancouver's Edgewater Casino for $42 million, saving it from bankruptcy. The casino has 500 slot machines.

      Paragon states on its website that it plans to open in 2013 a 1.2-million-square-foot “entertainment destination complex” in Vancouver. This would include two hotels with a total of 650 rooms, a spa, 1,500 slots, 90 gambling tables, 50,000 square feet of meeting and convention space, seven restaurants, and four bars.

      Tamara Hicks, director of corporate affairs and strategic communications for Paragon Gaming, sent the Straight a statement saying the company was founded in 2000 to “pursue destination casino opportunities outside of Nevada”.

      “The company's senior management team is one of the most experienced and respected in the gaming industry today, and were behind the Circus Circus casinos, the Excalibur Hotel, and Luxor Las Vegas,” the statement reads.



      Randy Chatterjee

      Feb 24, 2011 at 8:21am

      We have a new foreign company with little or no experience or expertise, which wants to open its largest ever operation right in the heart of Vancouver. Sound familiar?

      Yes, just across the creek, Millenium Development tried the same trick very recently, and is likely to leave the Vancouver taxpayer with hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.

      The difference here: Paragon "won" a no-bid contract. The heart of Vancouver is now for sale to foreign business operators with little experience and no significant track record, and all the negotiations are handled in a back room.

      Just like across the way at False Village up a Creek, the residents of Vancouver will be left holding the bag...and that bag won't be full of money like so many other large bags coming and going from this and other Lower Mainland casinos.

      Charlie, would you please have "this company's senior management team" checked out? Are they really "the most experienced and respected in the gaming industry"? What is really their record...and I don't mean police records? Do they have former Vancouver mayor Larry Campbell on their Board?

      Angler D

      Feb 24, 2011 at 8:45am

      Weren't Circus Circus, Luxor and Excalibur all part of the attempt to "re-brand" Las Vegas as a family oriented destination with "theme resorts"?

      How did that work out for them?

      Foster G

      Feb 24, 2011 at 9:56am

      We cannot let these US slum lords take centre stage in our Vancouver. The fact that it's even being considered is completely insane.

      Let the People Decide!

      Feb 24, 2011 at 9:56am

      Is Tamara Hicks kidding?! This pile isn't a destination casino!
      Who is coming from Macau to gamble at that?!!!

      It's purpose built to attract local gamblers--all the problems including money laundering, loan sharking will be home grown and paid for by local taxpayers---while the money heads back to the US.

      We already have 21,000 "problem" gamblers here. What, we'll have to pay for 3x's that number if the casino expands--including policing, fraud, robbery (to feed that addiction), family breakdown?!

      Nice going, Gordo and Davey. Nice legacy, boys.

      Sandy Garossino

      Feb 24, 2011 at 11:16am

      Paragon Gaming has not owned or operated Circus Circus, the Excalibur, or the Luxor. Those were owned and run by William Bennett the father of Paragon's president, Diana Bennett, in a separate company. Bennett Sr retired in 1994, and died in 2002.

      Given the nature and character of Paragon Gaming's corporate history, suggesting that they could pull off a major international tourist attraction and destination casino is like saying that Frank Sinatra Jr. has a great career ahead of him.

      Public Inquiry

      Feb 24, 2011 at 11:50am

      Destination casino, my foot. It has none of the earmarks of that. Proponents of this thing hint they are trying to attract high rolling gamblers from China. So people will come to this thing over the James Bond-level glitzy complexes in Singapore, Macau, even Vegas? No one believes that flimsy alibi. They are aiming this thing at local gamblers, problem gamblers whose ranks will swell thanks to the proximity of this thing to people - as has been seen in every other jurisdiction worldwide that puts gambling close to people. Nice try. And let's not even get started on Paragon's record or the fact that T Richard Turner was a director of Paragon WHILE on the public BC Lottery Corp board.... and a major donor to the BC Liberals. We don't just need to reject Paragon; we need a public inquiry.

      Peter F

      Feb 24, 2011 at 1:12pm

      Well the construction jobs are real. The commercial property taxes are real. The Land Rent is Real. For the first 5 years of operation, the hotel and casino will employ 1000+ persons.

      Ok so this firm is a second rate operator. They are still investing $450,000,000 in construction of the hotels and casino. The fact is there are only so many gamblers in Metro Vancouver. The fact is there is a very high likelihood that this venture will fail. So what are we left with if it does fail.

      135,000 space - could easily be converted to office or retail use, or convention centre.

      16,000 sq.ft. retail - could easily continue as retail

      425 Hotel roomes - continues as hotel, convert to strata or SRO housing.

      30,000 sq.ft. convention centre/Show area

      1000+ under ground parking stalls

      Fact is PavCo will get $6,000,000 to pay for BC place roof. City of Vancouver will get $4,000,000 in property taxes.

      There is no financial risk to the City of Vancouver. The only risk is for the Bank that plans to finance this private venture.

      There are currently 500 slot machines at the edgewater. They are proposing 1200. There are currently about 80 tables, they are proposing 140.

      Let the People Decide!

      Feb 24, 2011 at 2:44pm

      Too big too fail huh, Peter F? So, show us the business plan between PavCO and paragon. Let's see the deal, who's on the hook for what.

      Any economy depending on entertainment and/or construction for most of their revenue---is doomed to fail. Hello, Vegas! Hello, Ireland! Construction jobs---temporary. Because if you don't have a viable business base---jobs across sectors, those buildings will sit empty.

      I have no objection to a development---without the casino.

      The City will be on the hook---to the voters...

      Peter F

      Feb 24, 2011 at 5:40pm

      What is a better business model? A parking lot? How about a climbing wall as preferred by Sean Bickerton? We need job centres. No one is going to build a factory here. No one is going to build an office building (there are many better sites) My guess is that most opposed wish that this site should continue to exist as a hugely productive parking lot so it does not block their million dollar view. There is going to be mixed commercial use on this lot. Hotel, restuarants, and casinos. It is all commercial use. This city can't be solely a location for strata apartments.

      Ken Lawson

      Feb 24, 2011 at 6:27pm

      Casino provide jobs for many people, people like Sandy Garossino the just bitch and bitch but you do not see they creating any jobs, move of these wing nuts are welfare already, freeloading on the system