Vancouver's casino vote: The real winners and losers

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


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.


"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."

...or rather, that would had to have been used for the policing and social services necessary to deal with the increased crime and problem gambling for which the new facility would be directly responsible.

Larry Campbell-the shill for casinos, Translink,the Olympics and well rewarded for all of it...

As for all the foregone revenue, putting STIR where it belongs (the circular file) would provide more than enough for needed public programs. The suburbs can have the new art gallery too. do we really need to give away super precious land and money to a facility that is without question a regional, provincial and national asset?

Correction- capital "D".

WRONG Daniel, and bad on you and bad on your blog.

Amen to Neil. "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."

Any community that invites a casino and relies on it for public funding loses - FULL STOP. It is time yourself, your candidate Mike Klassen, Suzanne Anton, and any NPA hopeful who wants to educate themselves on the impact of casinos on the public purse STOP and READ Robert Goodman's 'The Luck Game.' Neil's comment above captures a part for the overall economic impact of casinos on their environment.

That impact, fully studied economically by Robert Goodman ( a public policy wonk involved in the gaming debate in the United States) is ENTIRELY NEGATIVE. There is No positive benefit in the end to a community. NONE. ZERO. NADA.

Count the # of businesses that sprung up around the River Rock Casino as a result of its presence. There are none. Coquitlam - same thing. But you do have dead loan sharks in Richmond parking lots (Lily Rong Li), a murder/ suicide in Richmond's Hampton Inn hotel rooms in early January, and many people economically suffering due to their reliance on this form of 'entertainment.' Ask yourself where in the casino's lists of public contributions does cleaning up that mess fall.... get the picture? Your continued support for casino revenues suggest you do not get it. Thank cripes some vocal Vancouver activists do!!!!!

Relying on casinos for public revenue is a Mugs Game. The only beneficiary, the one who convinces you that you need this revenue stream, is the promoter of the casino, that is the casino itself. Vision, NPA, Cope,,, wake the f$&k up and get off the casino kick. If you are going to argue otherwise, at very least please read some balanced accounts (like Goodman's) before encouraging the political class to force that crap down our throats.

The great Larry Campbell, media darling, caster of the tie breaking vote for slots in 2004, Director of Great Canadian Gaming in 2008, "it's not something that's been on my radar" in 2011.

Wasn't there a Da Vinci's Inquest episode where a gambling addict kills himself after getting indebted to loan sharks, becoming homeless and breaking up his family? Or am I confusing Vancouver with real life?

What I found very troubling, as we sat through many nights of speakers. Something Suzanne Anton kept repeating as she questioned speakers and staff.

She was very frustrated that the buildings were restricted in height...

Anton felt the buildings did not go high enough and quite frankly, I felt she was condescending to those of us that like the view of the mountains in Vancouver.

It was obvious to me during the entire process, her mind was made up.. Suzanne Anton was visibly frustrated with us NIMBYS...

I wish there was a 'like' button on the comments for this blog!

Daniel your analysis is correct I believe. But I always believe the voters get what they voted for. And they tend to get what they ask for in mid election times. The people voted strongly for Vision candidates and strongly against most NPA candidates almost three years ago. Some have been happy with the result, but many have not. The people who were against the proposed casino and the increase in gambling opportunities showed up in significant numbers and lobbied strongly. anyone who favored the proposal was noticeably absent. So we must assume that the people of Vancouver either didn't care or were opposed. They got what they wanted. Of course next they will lobby Victoria for the funds that were lost were a new larger casino approved.
The lone NPA Councillor Ms Anton has looked terribly out of her depth for the last three years. Never more so than during the casino debate. She is fooling her self if she thinks she has mayoral capabilities. Mentally compare Ms Anton with the mayor of Surrey and I suspect you will agree.

I should add that it would now be appropriate for all Vancouver taxpayers and renters to be prepared to dig deeper at tax time because the residents of other communities will resist increased provincial grants to an already financially privileged city.
You get what you vote for. No complaints.

Is the real issue here not so much casinos as mega projects? Large developers, politicians, and it would seem town planners seem enamored of these large-scale redevelopments. Is there any evidence that they lead to more livable and prosperous cities? I would like to see this land rezoned and broken up so that it can be developed in small chunks by local investors and businesses. Let's get fine grained and diverse cityscapes where people can participate in growth and in shaping our own city. Vancouver will never become a destination city for gaming, not without totally changing the kind of city it is. This development is intended to encourage local gaming. I very much doubt it would have had a positive economic rate of return.

@ Steven Forth : "Vancouver will never become a destination city for gaming....This development is intended to encourage local gaming. I very much doubt it would have had a positive economic rate of return."

Agreed totally. There is only one Vegas - a full stop destination gaming town known for one thing only. No one goes on holiday to Missouri for their destination casinos, yet Missouri also has many casinos too. They won't come here for the casinos either.

As for rate of return - according to Casino Watch (link attached), in 2002 gambling revenues in the state of Missouri offset 29% of the social costs to the state when the numbers were crunched.

The casinos of Missouri in 2002 gave the government $0.20 on every $1.00 it took in revenue, and it cost the people of Missouri $0.69 cents for each $0.20 of casino revenue. The house wins.

So why do people think it will be different here?

How many issues have there been with the existing Edgewater Casino to-date?

I've not read or heard of any problems with it, or for that matter, the majority of the other casinos operating though out the Lower Mainland.

Did you miss the murder suicide at the Hampton Inn in Richmond this January, linked to a gambling addiction problem at the River Rock? Or the murder of one Lily Rong Li, who worked the River Rock as a loan shark and was last seen alive in their parking lot before being found dead in a Richmond business park?

Or do incidents like that not count on the pro-casino crowd's ledger sheet because they did not happen on the premises?

Check out!

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