Another vid-e-torial from the CityCaucus.com IT Dept. - see video
Here's my 24 Hours column from this week...
Vancouver’s expanded casino at B.C. Place seemed like a done deal only weeks ago. There was simply too much money at stake for the city and the province to lose. Today, however, the proposal is in trouble unless the developer and the provincial government make significant overtures to stakeholders.
I’ve always guessed that Vision Vancouver, in an attempt to play both sides of the issue, would split the council vote six-to-five. It’s believed the party is also internally split on the matter.
Having a bigger casino in Vancouver’s downtown might not have received such a negative response if not for several factors. For example, the applicant Paragon Gaming did little if anything to reach out to the community who began to make a fuss about the project late last year.
Paragon may now pay for that perceived arrogance.
The casino debate has the appearance of a battle between the elites and common folk. Leaders from the arts and architecture community don’t easily mix with single moms who sling the rum and cokes, or seniors who like to spend a bucket of quarters at a slot machine for fun. In fact, casino patrons and workers are not being embraced at all.
The two sides more easily co-existed when gambling profits were earmarked for the arts, youth sports and non-profit organizations. Arts and non-profit societies who once supported legalized gambling are among the loudest opponents in this debate, because they’re getting a smaller slice of the revenue.
Back in 2004, these same groups urged council to support the Edgewater Casino proposal because they desperately wanted the funding that gambling brings. That explains why the same councillors who oppose the casino today – COPE's David Cadman & Vision’s Tim Stevenson, for example (Woodsworth was absent for the vote) – voted in favour of gambling at Edgewater back in ’04.
One arts rep said he wouldn’t take the cash from a bigger casino even if it were offered to him. In reality, the odds that an arts group would turn down casino cash are basically zero.
The provincial government and City of Vancouver stand to lose big bucks if this deal doesn’t go through, which is why I think premier-designate Christy Clark’s people might step in to sweeten the deal. Note that Clark herself commented publicly this week that she’s appointing an independent adviser to review how gambling profits are doled out – an interesting sign.
The big move to watch is where current Minister of Housing and Social Development Rich Coleman lands in a Clark-cabinet next week. Coleman currently oversees both gambling and social housing development in B.C.
Without those gambling profits, the social housing both he and Gregor Robertson have promised voters will be much harder to deliver. If the City and the provincial government can’t make a deal, expect that relations between them to sour in a hurry.