Will Vision Vancouver win or lose in upcoming mega casino debate
UPDATE on Saturday Feb 19: Yet again, the public hearing for the mega casino has been postponed. It will now be heard on March 7th. We'll be digging further to find out why there are so many delays in this process. Is there division in Vision? Fellow blogger Frances Bula is now referring to this as a "mess".
On Monday Mayor Gregor and his Vision caucus will be making a pivotal decision regarding the future of the city. After decades of heated debate with countless people being opposed, it would appear that Vancouver will finally be getting its mega downtown casino. Paragon Developments is proposing a massive new hotel/casino project adjacent to the newly renovated BC Place. It will have up to 1500 slot machines and will be similar in size and scope to the previously rejected Wynn mega casino project proposed back in the 90's.
Why do I think Vancouver will be getting its first downtown mega casino next week? It’s simple, Allen Garr from the Courier said so. If anyone knows how Vision will be voting on any particular issue, it’s my good friend and VanCity director Allen Garr. He wrote in his column last week that the horse was out of the barn on this whole gambling debate and it’s time we just live with the new reality of a mega casino. I think he’s probably right.
Let me declare that I do occasionally gamble. I like purchasing the odd LottoMax, 649 and BC49 and dream of what it would be like to win that kind of money. Just imagine the perks, the privileges and the power! If I won the big one I could even afford to give our CityCaucus.com staff a cash bonus now and again.
Every few months or so, I also pick up my 82-year old mother-in-law and head down to the casino in Burnaby to make my voluntary $20 contribution to provincial government coffers. So while I’m no hardcore gambler, I do understand how it can be somewhat entertaining.
On the other hand, I also realize that governments are increasingly becoming addicted to gambling revenues. Back in the 90’s when former NDP Premier Glen Clark first tried to introduce slot machines in BC, I was part of a coalition that fought hard against it. I could see where this was all going, and how the introduction of slots and video lottery terminals would result in the government pushing more casinos into even more communities. It was also apparent how hardcore gamblers would take their addiction home and negatively impact the lives of their loved ones.
Now fast forward to next week where the eight left wing politicians that make up the Vision caucus are going to have to decide whether Vancouver will finally get its Las Vegas style casino downtown. Rumours are swirling that this has been one of the most difficult decisions some Vision politicians have had to make since they took power just over two years ago. Backyard chickens and separated bike lanes are a cake walk compared to approving the expansion of gambling.
Complicating matters is the fact that COPE will in no way support this proposal, while the NPA’s Suzanne Anton is unlikely to cast her ballot in that direction either. I suspect the three opposition councillors will do what they should do and oppose this proposal.
This issue even seems to have galvanized a number of NPA stalwarts such as former councillor Peter Ladner and rumoured council candidate Sean Bickerton. They are helping to build a coalition which is fighting hard to convince Vision to vote no, but at this point all their efforts look a bit futile. As they say, too little too late.
At this stage although there may be some cracks appearing in the Vision armour, I suspect their caucus whip (aka Mike Magee) will get enough votes to ram this through next week. However, with over 80 speakers lined up to voice their opinion, it will make for a lengthy public hearing process. But at the end of the day, I simply can’t see how Mayor Gregor and his merry band can turn down the prospect of $23 million in new revenue for the City. We must also not forget that Vision Vancouver founder and former mayor Larry Cambpell serves as a director for a gambling company. Not sure if he still wields any influence within the party, but if he does, we likely know which way he'd want the Vision team to vote.
Although I don’t often agree often with Allen Garr when it comes to politics, I think he’s right when he hints that this is a done deal. After all, if the Vision doesn’t approve it, those gambling profits will simply flow out of Vancouver and into Richmond or Coquitlam’s coffers. Remember, it was all that gambling money that afforded Richmond’s Mayor Malcolm Brodie the luxury of signing a sweetheart deal with CUPE which provided them with 18-percent in salary increases.
The debate about whether we should have slots or not has come and gone and the battle has been lost. So I believe the debate next week should focus primarily on whether this is a good land use decision for the City or not. I don’t think it should be about the moral or social implications of gambling.
It will be interesting to see how the Vision caucus handles one of its biggest tests so far. I suspect people like Councillors Kerry Jang and Andrea Reimer will have a tough time raising their hand when the time comes for the votes to be recorded. But like obedient soldiers in the war for social change, I’m prepared to bet a few bucks that they’ll support the Mayor’s office agenda. Vision will ensure that Vancouver's new Vegas-style casino will break ground within a few months.
- Post by Daniel