A new casino in Vancouver will likely suck revenue out of suburban coffers
What’s that sound I hear from Metro Vancouver suburbs? Could it be a lot of sniffling and the shedding of some tears? Why on earth are some suburban politicians crying the blues about Vancouver - yet again? Did Mayor Gregor call them effin NPA hacks at a Metro meeting? Is he trying to force backyard chickens into Coquitlam?
Nope. Their concern relates to the new Vegas-style casino being proposed with 1500 slot machines for downtown Vancouver. If approved, it will be the largest casino of its kind in Western Canada.
After building mega casinos of their own over the last decade and sucking money out of Vancouver, some suburban politicos are worried BC's biggest city is about to get into the game. They have good reason to be concerned. Before long the car-oriented structures they’ve built, some with massive 6 story parkades, will be competing with a new shiny Vegas-style casino in a more urban downtown environment.
Jeff Lee from the Vancouver Sun does a good job of outlining the predicament cities have all got themselves into. After years of assuming that millions of “easy” dollars of gambling revenue would just keep pouring into city coffers, some cities are now clearly addicted. Surrey, Coquitlam, New Westminster and Richmond all have large casinos which generate huge sums of cash allowing them to build new parks, roads and recreation centres. Some cities even use the funding for their day to day operations. And the best part is they don’t have to tax their citizens to get all these goodies.
In the case of Richmond, they were so flush with casino cash back in 2007, they were able to cut a sweetheart deal with their civic union to guarantee labour peace. If you recall, Mayor Malcolm Brodie signed off on the 18%+ wage increase plus benefits agreement that became a template for all Lower Mainland municipalities. Unfortunately for smaller cities that don’t receive gambling revenue, the Brodie deal meant they would be forced to eventually either cut programs or increase taxes in order to pay for higher labour costs.
Now some politicians in the four municipalities hosting big casinos are expressing concern that if Vancouver opens up their mega casino this may impact their bottom line. In the words of one of our more prolific commenters…boohoo.
Competition is the name of the game when it comes to gambling. On the Las Vegas strip, hundreds of casinos all compete to attract the high rollers into their establishments. Why should Metro Vancouver be any different? If Vancouver politicians want to see more gambling revenue funding essential programs required by their citizens, then why shouldn’t they be allowed to do so?
In many respects Vancouver’s approval of a new mega casino might be considered just desserts for some suburban cities that have neglected the needs of their most vulnerable citizens. As my colleague Mike Klassen wrote in his most recent 24 Hours column, the City of Burnaby has all but ignored the plight of their homeless population.
Jennifer Moreau from the Burnaby Now also reported that up to 10 people have died on their city streets since 2007. Meanwhile Mayor Derek Corrigan appears more than happy to let Vancouver shoulder the lion’s share of the burden when it comes to building shelters and social housing for the region’s poor and destitute.
I have no doubt that a Vegas-style casino in downtown Vancouver will be more attractive to gamblers than one located out in the industrial areas of New Westminster, Coquitlam or Richmond. The very nature of its downtown location will appeal to potential customers who already frequent the area for a variety of other dining and entertainment options.
If the Vancouver casino is approved and their overall gambling revenue begins to skyrocket, you can anticipate hearing a lot more whining and complaining east of Boundary road. However, given the pressure Vision is feeling on this one, all bets are off as to whether it will actually see the light of day.
Rest assured, not only will gambling opponents be watching the upcoming vote very carefully, so will four suburban mayors and their finance officials. As a taxpayer in New Westminster, I too will be paying close attention.
- Post by Daniel