News about Edgewater casino at BC Place
BREAKING: April 11, 2014
Vancouver Not Vegas Calls for Reinstatement of Specialized Casino Police Unit
In 2009 the specialized casino police unit IIGET was disbanded weeks after it warned then Solicitor-General Rich Coleman that organized crime had infiltrated the gambling industry and was actively laundering money and loan sharking in casinos (see Appendix A).
By 2011 cash monitoring had deteriorated so severely that the BC Lottery Corporation was fined almost $700,000 by the federal agency FINTRAC for failure to control suspicious transactions at casinos.
“This is a complete systemic collapse of governance,” says Sandy Garossino, spokesperson for Vancouver Not Vegas. “There’s been no specialized policing presence in casinos for 5 years and organized crime has been brazenly active the whole time. BCLC has completely failed to control casino criminal activity.”
Vancouver Not Vegas renews its calls for former BCLC CEO Michael Graydon to be deemed unsuitable for employment with Paragon Gaming. “Did Graydon know about this report when he jumped without warning from BCLC?” asks Garossino. “For at least 5 years Graydon knew organized crime was active in BC casinos, and completely failed to rein them in. Now he’s going to head a casino of his own?”
During the casino fight in 2011, 18 senior organized crime policing specialists submitted a letter which warned Vancouver City Council about rampant criminal activity of gangs and organized crime in casinos.
Text media requests to:
Sandy Garossino 778-231-5230
Former Commander IIGET comments on casino oversight:
Excerpted quotes from 2009 IIGET report on criminal activity in casinos (p 22):
“Canadian casinos are extremely vulnerable to money-laundering because they deal in cash and handle tens of millions of dollars every day.
Many investigations… have shown that members of organized crime use casinos for criminal purposes (e.g. loan sharking and money laundering) and that some of these criminal elements have successfully infiltrated the industry.
Since 2003 FINTRAC has sent several disclosure reports to the RCMP on suspicious transactions involving casinos… Anecdotally, police managers have suggested… nothing is being done to investigate these situations.”
February 13, 2014:
Vancouver Not Vegas Calls on Province to Block Graydon Appointment
Vancouver Not Vegas calls for the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch (GPEB) to refuse to recognize Michael Graydon as a qualified officer of the newly formed PV Hospitality ULC, due to the public perception that Mr. Graydon may have violated the Conflict of Interest Guidelines of the BC Lottery Corporation, and due to his possession of sensitive confidential information pertaining to Paragon’s competitors.
Further, Vancouver Not Vegas calls for the City of Vancouver to attach a restrictive covenant to the property’s Development Permit, permanently limiting the number of slots and gaming tables on the new Edgewater Casino site.
Finally, VNV calls for the BC Lottery Corporation to publicly disclose all financial projections and public subsidies associated with the proposed Edgewater Casino expansion at BC Place.
“Public trust and confidence in the integrity of the BC Lottery Corporation is at stake,” says VNV member Ian Pitfield. “The corporation’s own Conflict of Interest Guidelines enjoin management from conduct which raises the perception of conflict. These rules are meaningless if there are no post-employment consequences for violations.”
“The City must respond to Mr. Graydon’s actions. Paragon is building a casino that’s oversized by some 40,000 square feet, and the BCLC governs the number of slots and table licenses that will go there.” says VNV spokesperson Sandy Garossino. “Mr. Graydon’s defection raises grave concerns about his neutrality while at BCLC, and what promises may have been made to Paragon.”
According to previous financial projections associated with an expanded Edgewater Casino, the BC Lottery Corporation was scheduled to transfer $16.9 million annually to Paragon Gaming to off-set construction costs. PavCo has re-negotiated a 50% lease reduction to $3 million annually. No projections of increased revenues (net of revenue losses to other local casinos) to the BCLC have been made public.
BCLC Conflict of Interest Guidelines
Gaming Control Act:
Deloitte report showing $16.9 m in construction subsidy: http://vancouvernotvegas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Deloittes-Economic-Report-Entertainment-Complex.pdf (P. 8)
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Link to this release as a blog post is here.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Vancouver, Feb. 7, 2014
Brazen Conflict of Interest by Former CEO Exposes Feeble Governance at BCLC
The resignation of Michael Graydon as CEO of BC Lottery Corporation (BCLC) to assume the role of president of PV Hospitality ULC in which Paragon Gaming Corporation is a partner raises serious conflict of interest and BCLC governance concerns says Vancouver Not Vegas.
“It’s a grave concern that the BCLC, which oversees an industry requiring the highest standard of integrity and transparency, would permit a departure of this kind from expected ethical standards”, says founding member Ian Pitfield.
“The Federal Government applies post-employment restrictions to public office holders. Why should the Province not insist on the same restrictions for senior employees of Crown Corporations?” Pitfield asks.
The Vancouver Not Vegas coalition calls for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding this move, and asks the BC government to answer the following questions regarding this and other governance issues within BCLC (BC Lottery Corp):
- When did Michael Graydon begin employment discussions with Paragon, a company of which he was the regulator?
- What assurances or commitments did he make to Paragon, his future employer, while he was in discussions with them concerning compensation, terms, etc?
- What knowledge did the BCLC have of employment discussions between Graydon and Paragon, and did it approve it?
- Why, after BCLC chair Richard Turner bought shares in Paragon Gaming in 2004, did the BCLC not institute a firewall policy preventing employment or financial relationships between senior executives. board members and regulated corporations?
- Senior management at BCLC are in possession of significant confidential financial information pertaining to all gambling operators in BC. It’s unthinkable that it has failed to safeguard that trust by preventing conflicting employment agreements for senior executives.
It is unthinkable that BCLC has failed to safeguard the trust by prohibiting key employees from assuming employment with regulated gaming companies for a period of two or three years following retirement or resignation. But today’s news is only one chapter in a history of governance breakdowns.
Documented lapses in governance at BCLC include:
- Unprecedented $700K FINTRAC fine in 2010
- Documented loan-sharking, money-laundering in casinos
- BCLC Chair Richard Turner’s acquisition of shares in Paragon in 2004, and subsequent move to become director.
Today’s revelation, combined with a repeated pattern of inept governance points to a rudderless corporation unable to exercise basic control over its key operations.
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Message from Sandy, Lindsay, Ian & the VNV team to supporters following the Development Board hearing on December 16, 2013
(Permalink to this article is here)
Many among us felt enormous disappointment at the conditional approval of the preliminary development permit on December 16.
The applicants have approval to proceed contingent upon developing a harm reduction plan in consultation with the Vancouver Coastal Health chief medical officer, with reference to the Kendall report, Lower the Stakes.
The down-side is that a massive casino floor has been approved, despite very strong community objection. This is extremely troubling. In November 2011 Council re-zoned the BC Place site to permit a casino. For reasons that are obscure, rezoning was permitted for the square footage requested in the original proposal–or 114,000 square feet–notwithstanding that Council rejected additional slot machines.
Industry standard for a purpose-built casino is roughly 52 square feet per slot machine, or about 31,000 square feet for Edgewater, so re-zoning to permit 114,000 sq. ft was an unusual step.
In any event, Paragon applied for and got approval for a 71,000 sf casino floor space–40,000 sq ft larger than necessary.
Given the cost of land and cost of construction in downtown Vancouver, it’s not credible that an experienced commercial real estate partner would commit half a billion dollars to a project that’s more than 100% overbuilt.
In our view someone with authority has committed to these investors that more slots WILL be permitted, and that is most likely the provincial government, which always has the power to amend the legislation requiring municipal approval for additional slots.
Since we assume the provincial government will pursue more slots, while Vancouver City Council is in principal steadfastly opposed (and 2014 is an election year), our focus is firmly on those aspects of this development which fall under exclusive municipal jurisdiction.
We are encouraged by the mayor’s statement on the morning following the DPB hearing that:
Given (the) public concerns…which were raised at today’s Development Permit Board meeting, I will ask City staff to identify further measures to prevent any expansion of gambling in the future on this site, including amendments to by-laws or the Northeast False Creek Official Development Plan that will restrict the allowable casino floor space to the existing proposal.
This measure opens the door for us to take a more aggressive position to curtail this development. The Kendall Report, which chronicles an alarming increase in gambling addiction following the widespread introduction of slots in BC, has indeed been a game-changer for this project.
Our focus now shifts to two issues: pressing this Council to follow through with its commitment to permanently prevent expansion of the casino, and supporting strong and robust conclusions by the Vancouver Public Health Officer respecting harm reduction measures for the casino.
We will seek, among other steps:
• A covenant by the applicant not to increase slots and tables as a condition of its final development permit
• Restriction of operating hours
• Implementation of Kendall recommendations respecting alcohol service and ATMs
• Public health review of casino operations and data gathering methods
The Mayor’s statement is a tribute to your persuasive arguments. Your dedication, commitment, energy and support keep alive the possibility that this project will never materialize in the form sought by the applicants.
We’ll be in touch as events unfold.
Sandy Garossino, Lindsay Brown, Ian Pitfield
December 17, 2013
Thanks to all who came to City Hall yesterday. We will update you soon on the events of yesterday, but in short the Development Permit Board passed the massive casino – double the square footage of the current one, and far more space per slot machine than in any casino in North America, which seems to signal later expansion – saying that it was not within their jusrisdiction to refuse the rezoning for that size that the Vision-dominated Council passed in December of 2011, a week after the last civic election.
However the DPB did stipulate that Public Health Officers must be consulted with respect to harm reduction measures, as per the recent BC government Kendall Report which detailed a rapid rise in gambling addiction in BC. The institution of harm reduction measures, which might include limiting the casino to regular bar hours, is a glimmer of hope.
Stay tuned for news on this angle.
What we asked the Development Permit Board to consider on Monday:
1. If there is to be no gambling expansion, why does the new building contain DOUBLE the gambling floor space of the current Edgewater Casino?
2. Why have Vancouver City Hall and the BC government not responded to the recent gov’t report by Perry Kendall, BC’s Chief Medical Officer, that details a massive spike in gambling addiction in the five year period of rapid gambling expansion in BC, 2002-2007? Why is Vancouver not considering harm reduction measures for the new casino, including limiting the casino to bar hours, or limiting gambling space so that the BC gov’t can’t force more slots on Vancouver later? Why is Vancouver the only major Canadian city putting a casino in a dense downtown residential area?
Our most recent press release is here.
UPDATE: You can still sign our petition, even though the Development Permit Board refused to send the application back to City Council for further discussion. Register your opinion that City Council and Vision Vancouver must institute significant harm reduction before this casino can go ahead.
In light of the recent Kendall Report on the rise in severe gambling addiction, we ask the City of Vancouver to refer the Edgewater Casino application back from the Development Permit Board (Dec. 16 meeting) to City Council for further review and a discussion about harm reduction. For more information, click “Read the petition.”
City of Vancouver: In light of Kendall Report on rising gambling addiction, send the Edgewater Casino application back to Council for review
This petition is now closed.
End date: Jan 31, 2014
Signatures collected: 659
|659||Tokuko Wray||Jan 18, 2014|
|658||Jose Mangue||Jan 13, 2014|
|657||Lila Lane||Jan 10, 2014|
|656||val clark||Jan 06, 2014|
|655||Michael Proskow||Jan 06, 2014|
|654||Kathy Lau||Dec 29, 2013|
|653||Ryan Krumins||Dec 21, 2013|
|652||Harrison Ford||Dec 21, 2013|
|651||Jessica Bruhn||Dec 20, 2013|
|650||ugly as all heck build something less appallingly ugly||Dec 19, 2013|
|649||Stewart McLean||Dec 19, 2013|
|648||Liliane Karnouk||Dec 19, 2013|
|647||Manon Lee||Dec 19, 2013|
|646||Edgar Bridwell||Dec 18, 2013|
|645||Romari Undi||Dec 18, 2013|
|644||Daniel Shaw||Dec 18, 2013|
|643||Kathryn Allison||Dec 17, 2013|
|642||Yvonne Lam||Dec 17, 2013|
|641||Esther Yuen||Dec 17, 2013|
|640||Ryan Tong||Dec 17, 2013|
|639||Marco Del Monte||Dec 17, 2013|
|638||Janet Carten||Dec 17, 2013|
|637||Michele Sim||Dec 17, 2013|
|636||I want to gamble, dont take that away from me so fck this noise, batches||Dec 17, 2013|
|635||Dos Batos||Dec 17, 2013|
|634||Pauvre fille t'es ridicule !||Dec 17, 2013|
|633||alright whos doing these fake names ..................... its me||Dec 17, 2013|
|632||ur all fgts fck u||Dec 17, 2013|
|631||Josh Montgomery||Dec 17, 2013|
|630||mike hawk||Dec 17, 2013|
|629||lil Timmy Snowden||Dec 17, 2013|
|628||LickMY ANUS||Dec 17, 2013|
|627||Juicy j||Dec 17, 2013|
|626||adolf hitler||Dec 17, 2013|
|625||Caroline Le Breton||Dec 17, 2013|
|624||Audrey Foo||Dec 17, 2013|
|623||Ryan Stevens||Dec 17, 2013|
|622||Lindsay Burke||Dec 17, 2013|
|621||bev leeder||Dec 17, 2013|
|620||Harpreet Sondh||Dec 17, 2013|
|619||Tyson Hernandez||Dec 17, 2013|
|618||Chris Loh||Dec 17, 2013|
|617||Laurie MacKenzie||Dec 17, 2013|
|616||Lyndsay Poaps||Dec 17, 2013|
|615||John E Walker||Dec 16, 2013|
|614||Rowan Brown||Dec 16, 2013|
|613||Ken Wan||Dec 16, 2013|
|612||kerr mcleod||Dec 16, 2013|
|611||Leo Chang||Dec 16, 2013|
|610||vanessa richards||Dec 16, 2013|
December 6, 2013:
Vancouver not vegas calls on city of Vancouver’s permit Development board to refer edgewater Casino proposal back to city council
For a permalink to this post, click here.
On December 16, 2013, the City of Vancouver’s Development Permit Board (DPB) will review a development permit application for a new Edgewater Casino at BC Place.
On October, 17, the BC government’s Kendall Report, conducted by BC’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Perry Kendall, demonstrated that gambling addiction is very widespread and that it has doubled over the past five years.
In light of the Kendall report, Vancouver Not Vegas and its supporters make the following requests of the City of Vancouver and its DPB:
Vancouver Not Vegas asks the City of Vancouver’s Development Permit Board return the Edgewater Casino proposal to City Council for further review.
In October, BC Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall issued a report warning that governments must do more to curb severe gambling addiction in BC.
In 2011 Vancouver City Council unanimously rejected the expansion of gambling licenses for Edgewater Casino, and approved the relocation of the casino to BC Place.
On December 16, the proposed Edgewater Casino goes to the Development Permit Board for approval. If it passes there, construction can commence before Christmas.
No further public hearings will be held.
In light of the Kendall recommendations and Vancouver’s Healthy City Strategy, Vancouver Not Vegas calls for the Edgewater application be returned to City Council for comprehensive public review and implementation of a harm reduction strategy for the casino.
october 17, 2013: The Kendall Report
Perry Kendall, BC’s Chief Medical Officer, published a report on October 17, 2013 showing that gambling addiction has doubled in BC over the past 5 years. Gambling addiction is one of the most hidden and deadly of addictions, affecting whole families and communities and costing the BC health and other public systems. There has yet to a reaction from the BC government or the City of Vancouver to this report. This is a serious public health issue. Why has there been no gov’t reaction to this damning government report?
September: VNV PRESS CONFERENCE on SEPT 24, 2013 in response to renewed paragon proposal for massive casino at bc place
And please share on Twitter and Facebook. Thank you! Links to these are above.
JULY: Vancouver Not Vegas Submission to the Development Permit Board
July 15, 2013
Vancouver Not Vegas is a coalition of citizens and community groups advocating for a healthy urban environment, and concerned about the proliferation of casinos in Vancouver.
Paragon Gaming, the BC Lottery Corporation and PavCo have a history of failing to disclose material facts and circumstances to the public, including the status of signed agreements and the existence of independent revenue projections that conflict with inflated numbers provided to City officials and the public.
Our position respecting today’s application is to take no position, but to state on the record that
1. Vancouver Not Vegas objects to the lack of transparency and public disclosure surrounding future plans for the Edgewater Casino. Under the Gaming Control Act, the public is entitled to full notice of all material circumstances surrounding proposed casinos, yet the public knows nothing at all about what will transpire;
2. To comply with the Gaming Control legislation, it will be necessary for Paragon Gaming’s relocation to BC Place to return to City Council for public hearings. To date:
• No plans or drawings for the site have been publicly disclosed,
• No net revenue projections nor host city revenue impact has been disclosed or independently verified;
• There has been no disclosure of public subsidies in the form of lease forgiveness, construction subsidies or environmental remediation to be born by the BC taxpayer.
3. As gaming revenues in the new location will not substantially increase, but construction and operation costs will, it is probable that the proposed relocation of Edgewater Casino will result in decreased revenue to the City and provincial government, unless it is significantly altered.
4. It is reported that Paragon is in discussions with other gaming providers. What is the subject of those discussions—ie, is Paragon looking to sell its interest, or is it in discussions to expand its gaming capacity in some form of amalgamation or joint venture that materially alters the proposed development?
Before the City exercises its discretion in favour of the applicant’s request for an extension of its gambling permit, we ask for Paragon to publicly disclose the nature of its discussions with other gaming interests, and to commit to limiting its intended licenses to those already approved for the site, i.e. 500 slot machines and 65 gaming tables.
Link to this media release is here.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 2, 2013: Vancouver Not Vegas Issues Court Challenge to PavCo and Paragon BC Place Casino Plan
May 2, 2013, Vancouver: Vancouver Not Vegas announced today that it will proceed with the action it filed in November 2011 in the BC Supreme Court challenging City Council’s approval of relocation of the Edgewater Casino to BC Place.
The decision to proceed with the action results from PavCo’s announcement that it has signed an agreement to lease with Paragon Gaming Corporation allowing construction of a casino on the BC Place site. There has been no public disclosure or public hearing concerning the terms of the Edgewater Casino proposal contrary to the BC Gaming Control Act Regulation.
Sandy Garossino, co-founder of Vancouver Not Vegas, says “this project has all the earmarks of a financial fiasco. Incredibly, the public knows even less about the Edgewater Casino proposal today than it did in 2010. Once again PavCo has announced a done deal to the public, only this time without even the courtesy of telling us what we are committed to.”
PavCo was going to lease the land to Paragon for $6 million per year. In September 2012, the Vancouver Sun reported that PavCo expects to reduce the rent to $3 million a year. The current proposal does not reflect the highest and best use of the site. Nor does it provide any indication of any return to the City.
Coalition spokesman, Ian Pitfield, says “no disclosure has ever been made to the public detailing what’s proposed now, nor has any community input been sought as required by the Gaming Act and the Regulation. Nobody knows what’s planned for the site, whether the City will lose money on it, how much public money will go into building it, or whether and how much the taxpayer will subsidize leases on public land.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the action.
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For background on the original petition, click here.
Ian Pitfield at 604-828-5494
It may have appeared that we defeated the mega-casino back in April 2011, but it’s not completely over. Vision Vancouver passed a rezoning in November 2011 allowing PavCo and Paragon to build a 2.6 acre casino for its existing 600+ slots. Why? We’re watching the BC Place and casino situations closely. Over summer and fall 2012 PavCo and BCLC held meetings (the subject of which remains undisclosed despite FOI requests), and in April 2013 the BC government announced a deal with Paragon for a smaller casino at BC Place, while the NDP have floated the idea of selling BC Place. What’s up? Stay tuned.
PLEASE READ OUR REPORT CONTAINING OUR ONGOING OBJECTIONS TO THE CASINO AT BC PLACE.
Our report includes arguments from the perspective of public health and addiction, urban planning, polling & public opinion, financial & economic development considerations, and more. It also contains our long list of endorsers.
Congratulations, Surrey BC!
Surrey’s citizens led by a group called No Casino in South Surrey worked hard to oppose a new resort casino, and on Jan. 18, Surrey City Council voted against a casino 5-4 with Mayor Diane Watts casting the deciding vote against.
The two largest cities in B.C, Vancouver and Surrey, have now said no to new and expanded casinos. Let’s hope this sends a message to other municipalities in BC and beyond. More on the Surrey story here.
Visit the Surrey group’s website, Twitter and Facebook.
Toronto citizens successfully fought a mega-casino proposed by OLG (equivalent to our BC Lottery Corp) and corruption-ridden MGM Casinos. The final decision was made at Toronto City Hall in June 2013. Congratulations to No Casino Toronto for their win after a lot of hard work.
Visit No Casino Toronto’s website, Twitter and Facebook page.
We won! Thanks to the thousands of Vancouverites who helped us defeat the mega-casino.
The final casino hearing & pavco’s last minute maneuvers
At the close, after all citizens had spoken, PavCo and David Podmore attempted an 11th-hour change of their proposal, asking for 1200 slots rather than 1500. (With option to expand later… to 1500. Within 2 years. Apparently this was a “compromise.”)
this is unacceptable.
Memo to PavCo, Paragon, and BCLC:
This is not a game. A good faith public consultation process lies at the heart of all gambling expansion applications in the province. It dishonours the people of British Columbia when Crown corporations try to game the public in such a cynical way. See our media release here.
Most Vancouverites don’t like gambling or gambling expansion.
A majority of Vancouverites strongly opposed the casino plan, just as they opposed a similar plan (also spearheaded by David Podmore) in 1996. Over two decades, the proportion of Vancouverites who oppose gambling expansion has never really changed. Even when pollsters ask leading questions in polls paid for by casino proponents, those who oppose expansion significantly outnumber those in favour. We defeated a mega-casino in the 90s, we defeated this casino in 2011, and it’s fair to predict that any future casino plans will be defeated too.
To read about the first 3 nights of casino hearings, click here.
Above: a “before” photo, without casino (and before stadium roof was removed). Below: proposed casino location and design.
In the drawing above, the white building at the right indicates the condo hi-rise you see in the photo below (with vertical yellow stripe).
Note: TO REACH THE Citizens’ GROUP FIGHTING THE JUMBO BILLBOARDS that have been installed around BC PLACE by pavco, CLICK HERE. (They’re a separate initiative.)
Above, Jumbotron advertising behind bronze Terry Fox
sculpture at Terry Fox Plaza. Below, video showing Min. Pat Bell claiming that PavCo has dealt with the problem and conferred with the City, neither of which is true.