Several suburban cities in Metro Vancouver are breathing a bit easier this week
In the aftermath of Vancouver’s most recent “rejection” of a mega casino, I’d like to assess who came out as the real winners.
First, what actually happened in Vancouver city council’s vote last week has confused many in the public and even in the media. Despite what you may have read, Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision-dominated council approved a new casino with 600 slots and 75 tables for BC Place.
What was not approved was the addition of 600 more slots and 75 more gaming tables requested by the applicant Paragon. The less contentious parts of the overall proposal – two new hotels, retail space and, yes, a casino – were all given a green light by Gregor & company.
Construction on the new gambling facility could get underway as early as this fall.
There remains an impression with the public that Paragon’s development proposal was rejected outright. This probably has something to do with the fact we’re nearing a civic election, and few politicians want to be seen championing a controversial development like a mega casino.
A lot of confusion also stemmed from the actual vote itself. A number of media outlets reported that all of the councillors voted in unison to “reject” the mega casino. In reality, there never was a motion the table to reject a grand Vegas-style facility.
Our civic leaders were simply presented with an option to vote for or against a new scaled down casino proposal at BC Place. All councillors except one – NPA councillor Suzanne Anton – disapproved of the expanded casino for various reasons. The Mayor said it didn’t fit his image of a “green city.”
Anton argued that “half a loaf is better than none,” and sided with council’s decision to approve the project without expanding the casino.
Mayor Robertson’s request for a “moratorium” on any future gambling expansion subject to a report by the BC Lottery Corporation further helped to muddy the public’s perception. This moratorium is so full of holes you could drive a roulette table through it. BCLC could have that report turned around in a week.
The irony is that Vancouver wouldn’t be having another heated debate about slot machines had it not been for the decision made by a previous council. It was former Mayor Larry Campbell, founder of Vision Vancouver, who successfully led the charge to bring slots into the city in 2004.
So Vancouver didn’t get a “Vegas-style” casino, but something smaller. Reno-style perhaps? Council’s decision means it will have to forgo tens of millions of dollars in new revenues that could have been earmarked for homeless shelters, parks and the arts.
That means the real winners on Vancouver’s decision to halt the expansion of gambling at BC Place are the suburbs. You can bet that money will continue to flow into the coffers of mega casino cities Coquitlam, Surrey, Richmond, New Westminster and Langley.
- Post by Daniel. Follow us on Twitter @CityCaucus. This column also appeared in 24 Hours Vancouver today.