Casino fate a crapshoot

Post by Mike Klassen in


Another vid-e-torial from the 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.

- post by Mike. Follow him @MikeKlassen. Follow 24 Hours newspaper @24HoursVan.


A Liberal tidbit for your morning:

'Women in British Columbia will die because of gambling expansion; that's the prediction of our experts at UBC. Some 37 per cent of the spouses of pathological gamblers abuse their children. So children may die as a result of gambling expansion, and their blood will be on the heads of the government that expanded gambling and of the MLAs who voted for it.'

-Liberal Kevin Krueger while in opposition in 1997.

@ Mike:

Cadman voted for the casino in 2004, as did Stevenson and Louie.

.....'The January 2004 minutes indicate that Louie, Stevenson, and Cadman voted in favour of the casino project, while Woodsworth was on leave'

It has been reported by AGT that you are running for council under the NPA slate.

" I can confirm that at this last week’s NPA Board meeting, the Directors present...were informed that four people would be running for the NPA as candidates for council on a slate of sorts" ---

AGT lists those four as Francis Wong, Suzanne Anton, Sean Bickerton and yourself.

1) can you confirm this is the case?
2) if what AGT is reporting is correct, as candidate for council, what is your position on gaming within the city of Vancouver?

Thank you Mike

Max, thanks, you're right. I reported Cadman voted for it in my 24 Hours column. I'm going to correct as I'm getting the Edgewater vote mixed up with the Hastings Park vote, which Cadman opposed.

On the Casino issue. Wouldn't have been a great idea to let the Council take a tentative vote before the public hearings...and then again another vote right after? Just to see if they really, really listened.

Democracy Cubed anyone?

Douglas, if I was Mike I wouldn't answer a question like that. Mike's done a very good job at poking holes in the Vision strategy over the past couple of years. This website is a shining example of what good journalism can look like.

Because he's so well spoken it's a given that the NPA would look at him to actually put his name forward to run for council. Tsakumis can say all he wants, but running for public office (especially in the overly Vision politicized city of Vancouver) is a very personal decision.

Make no mistake, should Mike put his name forward, the Vision machine will start rolling all over him, trying to discredit anything he ever says. It will get very personal and dirty. I wouldn't wish such treatment on my worst enemies let alone a solid journalist like Mike.

So for now, I think we should just ignore the rumours. If Mike decides politics are in the cards for him, I think the city will be better for it. He's the type of person who won't hide his agenda like the Visionistas on council right now.

I respectfully disagree with you and stand by my question. There is nothing personal or nasty about my question (I try to weed out the vitriol one sees on the likes of an AGT piece) , and I like the job Mike Klassen does on this site to stimulate discussion of important civic issues.

However, it has been put forward that he will be running, and IF that is a decided fact it changes how his journa-blog will be received by many. Bill McCreery occasionally comments here and on other blogs, and is very upfront that his comments are those of a candidate running for council.

If Mike Klassen is going to be a candidate, and that decision has indeed been made at the NPA level (as has been suggested elsewhere) that fact should be made known now and not concealed while he continues to opine about civic issues. If that is not the case, all Mike Klassen has to do is state that AGT had it wrong and such is not the case.

Not answering means leaving it blurry, and suggests that 'yes I am running but no, I don't want people to know that until much later ", which would suggest hiding the agenda, as you (I believe rightfully) accuse Vision of. If the NPA has met and decided on a slate of candidates there should be some disclosure.

So Mike:
Is Mr. Tsukamis correct, and if so, what is your political position on gaming?
Is Mr. Tsukamis incorrect?
OR as Paul would suggest, would you rather decline to answer at the present time.....

It should be noted that Mike's colleague at 24 hours is also being touted as a future NDP candidate. Bill Tieleman sounds like he may throw his hat in the ring in Point Grey. That said, I still think he can write a column which I enjoy reading.

There are a lot of journos/media that had gone into politics. Mike Duffy, Pamela Whallin, Peter Kent, Christy Clark and so on. Are you suggesting they should have come clean with the public the moment they thought about entering politics? If so, you gotta be kidding.

If Mike K does run, I'm sure all of his readers will be invited to the press conference where he makes the big announcement. AGT is just muckraking.

@ douglas:

The NPA nomination meeting is not until June.

Perhaps Mike has pondered running, I've heard nothing and am an NPA member.

He has until the June meeting to decide and declare his nomination.

@ Jessie:
"Are you suggesting they should have come clean with the public the moment they thought about entering politics?"

Absolutely not.

Am I suggesting they come clean when it has been determined by they and their party that they are entering the ring?


A solid example is Bill McCreery, who has already come forward to state he will be a candidate for Parks Board (I say that with utmost respect to Mr. McCreery - who prefaces his comments with his intentions and to whom I wish nothing but the best).

If some one has made the decision and it is going forward,it might be a good time to get in front of the curve and state the intentions. Does that mean the person cannot still be a journalist or political blogger? Not at all in my personal view.

What it does do however is change how their work is perceived - especially given the partisan nature of the beast.

Vancouver needs strong balanced civic government, and has not been getting it. If Mike Klassen wishes to run and can bring the same accountability to the council he tries to in the blogosphere I am all for it. But if it has been decided and put forward that he is, then I for one would like to know if I am reading his views as a journalist or his position as a candidate. Can one not see how this can get blurry (absolutely the same goes for Christy Clark, Tieleman et al)

If AGT is wrong and his name has not been forwarded to the NPA as a candidate ( which is a much different proposition than merely thinking about it), a simple no would clear that up.

Have you checked with the NPA on this? I don't think anybody has been approved as an NPA candidate. Wouldn't they issue a news release if they did? Surely we would have heard about it like with did with Mcreery.

I think whoever AGT is, he should show you some proof in writing that candidates have been approved. All of this sounds a bit like small town gossip if you ask me.

Sorry there Jessie T. - should not have abbreviated there. AGT is Alex Tsakumis (I believe I may have previously spelled his name incorrectly - google him if you like).

His is a different spin (and decidedly different tone, sometimes I personally regret) but however quite succinct and at times well able to ask pertinent questions if you can get beyond the venom, albeit in the blogosphere. I know I am not the only one who reads him as well as City Caucus.

As for 'small town gossip' - a) AGT has a pretty good batting average on civic issues and b) we're still in some ways a pretty small town

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.

I personally have been standing in this crowd for the past two nights of the debate, I'm not a member of the arts community, I'm a single parent, poor, and a senior...

The comments from Casino Staff have been very interesting.

What I have found very interesting is the fear mongering that has gone on by Paragon to their employees...we have heard from single Moms that had to drag their children to job interviews at the Casino because they were too poor for a sitter....
To be honest my little violin couldn't keep up. We've heard of ill family members that without the help of the Casino wouldn't have made it.. To hear the story, the Casino is next to God.

After sitting amongst the crowd for many hours this week, my question is.. why has the Gambling/gaming industry gotten so entwined with the Government that we are now in this position, of one holding the other for ransom for funding? It has slowly seeped in, first bingo in church halls to the massive fire eating giant it has become..

It was not a pretty situation and I strongly recommend that everyone with an opinion get down to City Hall Monday evening, and just listen while standing in the crowd..

I personally think the lines have become very blurred and that is a very big problem for us as a society. Our government I believe, has created a monster that should be tamed...

There should be a division of Government from Gambling, when the dependency by either private citizens or community groups or governments gets too great, then we have the unfortunate situation that we see now.Each holding the other for ransom.

We have become so dependent on the revenue we ignore the money laundering, and violence we see around Casinos

If the past two nights are any indication...the pressure will get much worse. the government, through Media, government workers coming forward begging for funds, and politicians making us fearful that all services will be lost without the gambling revenue...that to me is a very slippery slope...and a telling sign of what is yet to come...

I would not want to be sitting on the Council right now...There were a few things said that have changed my opinion of several of the Council members...good for Tim Stevenson for voicing no email questions to VCH, that the questions are public,,,

Anton I'm afraid should try to stop her drooling, one would feel by watching that nothing said will change her mind, and those pesty view corridors hindering development...

Listening to her comments I'm pretty sure the last thing on her mind is social, or affordable housing...

If you can't be at City Hall Monday night, watch it online, a most curious debate...sign up and give your opinion to Council, after all is said and done we can't go be very sure... Use your voice..

I suppose it is too late to separate whether we should have a large casino (which I oppose) from whether this specific project should go forward, which I think is an abuse of the site, very poor planning, and it seems that the deal is not particularly well structured.

I am also interested in what position Ms. Clark will take on this. It will have a big impact on how strongly I will support her going forward.

We have a pretty distressed economic and policy structure if funding of social housing is dependent on casino development. This underscores the need to rethink municipal financing and to take taxation power away from the provincial (and federal) governments and move it closer to where we live.

Hear hear - we need to disentangle government from for-profit businesses. It corrupts both.

If the Arts community is opposing this casino as a response to recent reductions to their "share" of the proceeds, then perhaps the proposal will fail. And then who pays for the roof? I suggest in that event, the arts groups share of casino and other gambling profits be reduced to zero. That would leave sufficient funds to pay for the roof that is already committed. And as a secondary benefit it just might teach the arts groups a lesson.

To be clear Steven....


I agree with Alex G Tsakumis...I demand an inquiry of BC Rail..and I strongly question the Liberal support of this Casino Project from the inception...

I would give Mike K a bit more time on this one. If it is true that he is planning to run (which would be a good thing) he should let us know relatively soon, but he does not need to do it right away.

potential NPA wannabes like Mr. Klassen have access to the same polling data as everyone else:

data that predict a huge tidal wave win for Gregor and Vision .... doubtful Klassen desires to be a sacrificial lamb for the discredited NPA; Klassen will come to his senses and bail, leaving the NPA little option other than to nominate retreads like Kim Capri & Elizabeth Ball ...

I think that the policy framework around how funding from governments gets to non-profits---and I mean ALL non profits, including volunteer firefighters, mental health associations, sports groups, etc--is severely lacking in general. Money from casinos/gambling is one form of revenue, though an ever more dominant one as we go along, since we seem to have no ideas on how to stimulate economic diversity in this province and city..

For instance, kids and adult sport and their wellness programs should be INSIDE the health ministry. After all, there are numerous studies that tell us that an active lifestyle helps keeps costs down in the health system, in the long run.

Yet, it, like many other programs that are preventative in nature have been booted from that minisitry---and left to be used to prop up BCLC demands, and reduced to begging for funds from gambling. Remember: gambling started with lottery tickets (which is still the prevelent form of gambling in the province) and that money was to go to non-profits.

Will it surprise you to discover, bobh, that as the province continues to look for easy money, and that is thru expansion of gambling, that non-profits haven't received 1 new dollar since 1995---and that's after a TRIPLING of gambling in this province.

Perhaps something you can relate to: Remember when ICBC had all your car insurance money (surplus, from high rates) skimmed off by the provincial government last year? You didn't get a relaxation on your car rates, did you bobh? No, that "kitty" or "rainy day fund" was raided by the government.

Same with gambling money. They see a cash cow, and they take it, and leave everyone with whom they have made promises to, in the dust.

Let me state here that I am not for throwing money at anything--including health care and other publicly funded institutions. ther has to be a balance between intake and output. Obviously all governements have lacked the will to make smart, comprehensive choices in running these cash needy thing. But you ain't gonna fix health care solely by throwing MORE money at it!

So, without proper policy, and when the kind of money anticipated to come from the expanded of gambling is raked into "general revenue", I can tell you, it is a recipe for funding only those people that a government wants to reward. Perhaps someone like you, bobh?

Former Attorney General Geoff Plant agrees that this current expansion of gambling---and indeed the expansion that has accelerated over the last 10 years--in this province has gone on without proper process and due diligence around a host of problems and without many other things taken into consideration.

So, I put it to you, bobh, how should the provincial government act, now that all the people are speaking out on this casino expansion in particular, and the expansion of gambling in general?

To clarify, I was nominated 20 November as a candidate for Council by the NPA along with Jesse Johl also for Council, Melissa De Genova, Park Board, and Sophia Woo, School Board in an early nomination. I am not running for Park Board, I was a Park Board Commissioner with TEAM in the 1970s.

No further candidates have been selected by the NPA at this time. Nominations close, I believe (best confirm), 1 month before 4 June. So, if you're wanting to run you better start getting organized. I would assume Mike, or anyone else has until that date to declare their intentions.

my mistake re: Parks Board as you are indeed running for council. My apologies and all the best - always appreciate your straight-forwardness.

Re: Mike Klassen and any speculation re: candidacy - I personally believe Mr. Tsukamis has raised a Q. that best be answered quickly - I like what City Caucus has brought to the table in terms of debate and want them to keep up the good work. If however reporting is being done by someone with party ambitions, it is my view that it is best that some sort of clarification happen quickly so readers know whether they are reading the opinions of a journalist or a candidate, because that will skew drastically how the issues raised by City Caucus are received. And with respect to Jessie T. I would rather not ask the NPA if I can give Mr. Klassen the opportunity to answer for himself (even if undecided).

The example of Bill Tieleman was brought up and, while undeclared re: Point Grey, he has addressed this question head on and with humour, and thus removed questions for the time being. We still know where he stands.

As for the main point of the blog piece - I am very concerned with government relying on Casino Revenues to fund government activities for a myriad of reasons, from moral bankruptcy to suspicion the flow of $ may not be steady. I ask for clarification of Mr. Klassen because governments are broke to the point of not having any pot to piss in, and I wish to know whether it is his view that governments in general (regardless of party) should be relying on gambling income, with its tacit acceptance of the social ills tied to it, or not.

finally kudos to George for attending the hearing and in full agreeance with S.forth, Angry Taxpayer and others -
government is getting corrupted by an addiction to dirty money.

Best to all

You do realize at this time, the NPA hasn't even put forward a Mayoral candidate, right?

I'm hearing a very reasonable tone to your question douglas, however I think your delivery is what has some of us feeling that the question is inappropriate, or rather a little too early to ask.

I think if you would have come out and said, "I heard on Tsakumis' blog that you were throwing your hat into the ring, is this true?" and left it at that until Mike decided to answer you, then it would have been a fair question.

But you went from asking a question about rumour to immediately asking the next question if Mike responded that he was, indeed, seeking the nomination. Trouble is, he hasn't announced one way or another. So it appears you were accepting the rumour as fact.

In his blog he has made it abundantly clear that the casino question is one of the biggest hornets nest for the current city council. Heck, how they vote on it may even make Mike decide if he'll run for a nomination. I'm sure if he seeks a spot on city council we will get the full story on where he stands.

I think its not too early to ask, but accept that's the sentiment from the response, and if the rumour can be confirmed/ denied/ quashed/ stomped out, so be it. I do believe AGT hits more often than he misses with his research, venomous tone notwithstanding.

My big fear (apart from keeping straight whether the blog is journalism, unofficial opposition to Vision or official opposition to Vision) is that the NPA won't get its act together

Though I hope BC Bud gets proven wrong, without strong candidates (who I understand were supposed to originally come forward by March 09 - since postponed) BC Bud will be proven right. If we don;t know until 6-8 weeks before the election who will oppose Vision, although a well-organized traffic cone might be able to take the mayor's chair given what we have now, the NPA are leaving it too late to find a suitable traffic cone.

@douglas, just to comment on one of your points

"I do believe AGT hits more often than he misses with his research, venomous tone notwithstanding."

I must say I am in total agreement with you,except the venomous part, I think the focus is TOO MUCH on the messenger a great deal of the time, as it was in High School(gossip/bullying)..when in reality the focus should be on the message.

I personally find his style of writing old style, gripping, great old radio style (age showing here)

The fact that AGT backs it up with documentation on most of his articles speaks for itself... what I always find curious is the shrinking violets that aren't capable of taking his style of truth...have we as a society become too politically correct the we criticize someones voice, because we don't like the tone, rather than the content of their speech...

We all have a voice...and every voice is different...Thank goodness, mine sounds like a squeaky wheel, but there are times when some listen... ;-)

I understand what you are trying to say here douglas, and I admired the fact that AGT himself recently posted that he has received pressure to though his hat into the political ring... his struggle with the fact that he considers himself a journalist, and personal dilemma associated with it...very difficult position...but I respect the fact that it is out there for all to consider, rather than speculate...

just my opinion, definitely not a criticism...

...and as I've said in regard to the Casino, we all have a voice, please use it!!

No matter what your opinion voice it!!

Money laundering.

That is all.

This is interesting, the employees from the Casino have been arguing this week at City Hall that their jobs are lost if this expansion is not approved....I think someone is being lied to...

@Douglas. I note your question and I'll get back to you.

I thank you, and I wish you well whichever way you decide. I do hope you can see how it will affect reception of your writing, thus the suggestion of it forcing the question.

And if by chance you are considering a run, think which side of the tent you believe yourself most effective relieving yourself on ! Good luck.... do appreciate the blog

Douglas, the remaining NPA candidate nominations will be held 4 June. The AGM meeting is what has been put off until 1st few days of September. You will have 5 3/4 months to check out the entire NPA slate.

Check out!

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