Gambling Revenue: Vancouver suburbs get a taste of their own medicine

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


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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.river rock

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


*Surrey doesn't have a casino, there's a small casino in Langley, not far from Surrey border's. Burnaby has a large casino though*

I have to say, kudos to Surrey for keeping casinos out of their municipality. I am sure future city coucils will change that though.

If the future Vancouver casino goes ahead as planned it will probably lead to bigger casinos througout the lower mainland. I doubt the casino companies operating within other cities will take no action and let Paragon take a bigger 'piece of the pie'. They in turn will demand casinos of similar size.

Living in New Westminster myself, I personally wouldn't care how big they built the casino in Queensborough, it's not built in a residential are so bring on the "easy dollars" (though no doubt city coucil will find a way to squander it so my property taxes are still outrageiously high)

Sorry to correct you, but there is a casino in Surrey. It is at the Cloverdale Raceway.

Look for any expansion to be tied to the discussions with respect to the future of the horse-racing industry, as there are some who wish to consolidate the thoroughbreds and quarter-breds into one year-round facility

The casino in Queensborough is a loser, It was poorly positioned, and the market they target is Richmond. If you've heard any of their adds, it's always "just minuted from richmond" Hmmm, I wonder why ? They did the whole place in that Fung Shuway deal figure 8's and Chi and all the rest, but the place is full of penny slots. River Rock has the majority of the marketshare, being so close to the airport, I've heard that Vegas casino exec's coming down to look at the operation. People fly in from china just to gamble at that casino for the day.

The casino market is saturated. I doubt very much that Starbright casino will ever expand. You know they have zoning for Towers and all sorts of things for that property. And none of it has happened becuz they just don't get the revenue like richmonds River rock. QB casino is a dud, and if this Vcr one is built, it will suck what little life it has.

Course, I don't care, I "EFFIN" hate that shitty casino located in an industrial park. (didn't know you could use the EFF word)

RE: "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. "

K - consider me dumb, consider me naive, what have you. But just how does a mega-casino address the needs of said vulnerable citizens?

We're talking payoffs pure and simple. "Give us a casino and we'll give you some labour peace, a fancy roof on the old stadium, a small for a gambling addiction center"

Government gets a social program to trot out as victory in negotiations with casino owners - and casino owners get approvals AND a place to direct their worst customers to - if they decide to do that. Just because Richmond has one does not mean Vancouver should out-do them.

When the Jones' Jones is to make their citizens gamble their paycheque away to fund social programs, keeping up with the Jones' does not seem very admirable.

@Werner sounds like you lost your shirt at the Starlight? I quite like it, I was there a few weeks ago and it was very busy. The Redbar Lounge was jumping with a great band. Shank's is also one of the best sports bars in town. I also don't think the casino downtown will have much impact on the exisiting casinos.

@douglas My bad then, I didn't know the Cloverdale raceway was a casino, I had heard they had added slot machines, did not realize there was an actual casino there

@Werner The company that owned the Royal Towers closed the operations there to make way for the Starlight casino. Same with the riverboat casino, it closed and the operating license was moved to the Langley location.

How on earth would you know how much revenue the QB casino makes anyways, most casino revenue comes from VIP rooms anyways. You don't need to have a packed casino to make money, just a score of regulars in the VIP room

No need to EFF about it anyways. Were you barred for some reason or another??

Another reason why Vancouver needs an elected regional government. Big unions and big businesses just keep playing the municipalities off against each other to get whatever the heck they want. Here's some reportage on Metro Vancouver's Regional Growth Strategy.

@Charlie I actually do go to the casino on occasion with my Ornamental friends. Shanks is a dead zone, we pop in there to look at the waitresses. Only seen someone shooting pool once, never seen anyone play the putting course. Course, I don't hang out there on a friday night, or during a sporting event, I imagine they might get a few more patrons during such events.

@GB When the Starquiet opened up there doors they advertised the largest poker room in north america. Not much poker being played there anymore ! And I don't know whats going on in the VIP room, but I'm sure River rocks VIP room actually has VIPs.

I do gamble at the Starquiet, my biggest loss was about 270 pennies. Took me a hour and a half to lose that much at a penny a pull ! I figure I got my moneys worth drinking all the free tea I can.

But the fact remains, they have zoning for a highrise, no plans to build, council gave them a varience so they could put up that god awful sign (wonder why? none could find it), they partnered with 'Richmond Night Market' to pull in the 'target' crowds, which fell through, and they run free shuttle buses all over creation looking for pensioners to pop pennies into those 1 armed bandits.

I don't have to look at the books to know they're a hurtin unit.

@Werner Well they must be making some sort of profit becuase they have paid for the construction of 3 new parks in the Boro as well as the upcoming expansion to the community centre.

Well folks, when suburbs start worrying about losing marketshare to Vancouver I think there is only one option for City. Take that gaming revenue that has been flowing to the burbs and bring to town. I suspect Gregor can build many chicken shelters, bike lanes, and social housing units with the cash. Unfortunately, he hasn't built any of the latter yet.

So now we are going to have really serious competition between the big regional casinos for clientele, local and international. Is this a good thing? Competition can be good or it can be bad. If good, it brings things to a higher level, if not it drags them down.

In the case of duelling casinos, there are 2 possible negative consequences:

1) Due to over supply, casinos will be forced to increase the overall customer base.

For locals that means there will be marketing maneuvers and trinkets to entice more bodies through the door. Will more bodies turn into more addicts? Will there be a direct correlation between body count and addiction?

For out of towners, cheap, cheap 3 day packets will be used to attract people, and boost hotel occupancies. Can you visualize people coming to Vancouver for 3 days from Vegas?

2) The fierce, life and death competition will force individual casino managements to push the rules, look the other way, wink, wink with respect to money laundering, loan sharking, etc.

A 3rd consequence will be that 1 or 2 of the weaker cousins goes under. Which one will it be? Based on the very optimistic projections of the Paragon PROPOSAL, it may well be them.

Only the clueless play at Starlight. They are the only casino in town that pays 6:5 on a blackjack (on an autoshuffle machine, just to rub it in) instead of 3:2.

Starlight made the switch to 6:5 illegally: When it was brought to BCLC's attention that a 6:5 payout on blackjack actually violated the gaming rules in BC, BCLC had to quickly had to cover their ass and re-write the gambling regulations posted on the BCLC website just to appease Starlight. So much for "gaming integrity."

Mayor Brodie in Richmond is getting exactly what he deserves. He screwed the whole region during the big strike in 2007 and now he is getting exactly what he deserves. If Vision turns this one down, they will never be able to look at the province again with a straight face and say we need money.

@Charlie, do you consider the tax you pay to be profit for the government ? Those parks are out of the DAC fund ! The parks were already city owned land to begin with ! The casino only paid for the upgrades to the land, to the tune of 5 million in total so far. A lot has been dumped into that MUCF, and then some walkway bridge down the road. The community centre is getting an upgrade as well, but It's not because of the profits !

How foolish are you ? Do you really believe the greedy Casino's would drop money on a community because they're making a profit ? THEY ARE FORCED TOO !!!!!! Just like we're all forced to pay OUR taxes that keep going up up and away !


Too bad that these people didn't think of that tax base stuff...wait, actually they did! They left lots of money at the casino to pay for...uh...stuff.

So...this is the kind of business that our local and provincial governments think we should be investing in?

And that's just ONE of the wonderful spin-off benefits from an expanded casino in Vancouver!

"Families First!"

Why would they change the payout to a winner at blackjack ? Could it be the odds are they need that extra margin to float their boat ?

I find it somewhat sad that today the story of the murder-suicide at the Hampton Inn in Richmond has finally been told.

According to the news story I heard on WX1130 this morning the fellow had just withdrawn $200K from his bank and lost it all at River Rock. Then went back to the hotel killed his female companion then did himself in.

The information on this story has been suppressed since the event took place. The original story as I remember it was purposefully vague. The original story would not even name the hotel where this happened, just that it took place in Richmond.

Sad situation when the media is muzzled to protect the Municipal cash cow's that these casinos have become.

@R.Isaak I just found the link to that story you mention. Couldn't find it on News 1130 so I searched Google News ("river rock casino suicide") it and only found one report:

The opening paragraphs are pretty chilling:

The Richmond man behind a high-profile murder-suicide in a local hotel room last January was saddled with a massive gambling debt incurred at River Rock Casino Resort, The Richmond Review has learned.

A source told Black Press that the man had withdrawn some $200,000 from his line of credit, and lost it all at the local casino before reserving a room at the Hampton Inn on Jan. 7. An independent source familiar with the police investigation confirmed the details.

The 55-year-old man took a sharp instrument and killed the 50-year-old Richmond woman with whom he shared the hotel room before turning the weapon on himself.

Howard Blank, spokesperson for Great Canadian Gaming Corporation which operates River Rock, declined to comment, citing the fact that the murder-suicide did not occur on the casino’s property. A request for a comment from the B.C. Lottery Corporation was unreturned by press time Friday.

@Mike, I have to give you credit on digging that one up, I remember the loan shark women who went missing, but it is VERY true that the Asian market is in the cross hairs of casinos.

“This is a real wake-up call for the Chinese community. They should never allow themselves to be the target,” Chu said.

Actually Werner, I'm happy to take the crdit for posting that story previously on this thread.

It seems that the citizens are waking up to the associated criminal and social problems posed by casinos now.

You ain't seem nothing yet--if the new mega casino goes in at BC Place, you will see an exponetial growth in problems--and costs.

Surely, we have built out this city successfully to this point without a ton of casino money (we're only getting $6.3 million out of a promised $10 million now from what we were promised from Paragon through Edgewater).

Where is the (excuse me) the vision to built a strong, resilient economy through businesses that give, more than they take---as the new casino will do.

Where are we heading as a city?

At what time was personal reponsibility handed over?

I am so tired of people trying to lay the blame for their own personal conduct at the foot of the 'government'. It is an easy out that society is making easier by the day.

Can't control yourself; have a drinking, drug, gambling, theft, etc. problem, blame the government. I mean, obviously, the government is to blame because they did not stop me from doing harm to myself....

No wonder the prisoners are forming unions. Another sad joke being played out on those that lead a normal, law abiding life. After all, someone has got to foot the bill.

We are perpetuating a weak assed blame everybody but ourselves society.

Which is the mega casino in Surrey? Fraser Downs? Hardly big enough to be grouped with the likes of Starlight, River Rock and Boulevard. Might as well include Edgewater in this disucssion in that case.

Check out!

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