Monthly Archives: March 2011

Casino public hearings

PUBLIC HEARING DAY 1 – MARCH 7, PRECEDED BY RALLY
Your opposition and your numbers were duly noted by council, media and the public. Photos by Georgia Straight photographer Stephen Hui are here. We were joined by Olympic poet Shane Koyczan, May Brown, Retired Judge Ian Pitfield, Setty Pendakur, Ken Lum, Brian Jungen, Bing Thom and many other Vancouverites. All the media were present. Thank you everyone. You can see Shane Koyczan talk about political involvement and being heroes here (or scroll to bottom).

PUBLIC HEARING DAY 2:
It was an excellent session at City Hall on March 8, largely dominated by opponents of the casino expansion. Speakers #14 – #32 gave presentations. There was also an 8:30 session in which councillors asked questions of city staff. We heard many excellent speeches to Council including those by coalition members Tom Durrie (Pres. of Grandview-Woodland Area Council; video below), and Patsy Macmillan and Fern Jeffries (co-chairs of the False Creek Residents Association). Hilary Reid, a gambling expansion researcher, gave a harrowing talk on the social and economic impacts of gambling, and Colleen (Hardwick) Nystedt, (daughter of Walter Hardwick), who worked on a city panel for the BC Place Stadium site, gave a brilliant presentation critiquing the planned use for the site and detailing the utter absence of public consultation over many years and councils.

PUBLIC HEARING DAY 3:
The March 14 evening hearing began with sessions with the VPD and City Hall’s medical officer, and then proceeded with the speaker’s list for speakers #34 – #59. Three members of our coalition spoke (Sandy Garrossino, James Johnstone, Sean Bickerton) as well as former City Councillor Peter Ladner, former planner Nathan Edelson and many others.

NEXT HEARINGS: APRIL 9, 10 am – 6 pm, and April 10, 1-6pm. Please attend!

Parents shouldn’t blow college fund at casino

“If the mega casino were to be built, my parents would probably go there almost every week. Perhaps they could spend their money on my university tuition; it’s just a thought.”

Parents shouldn’t blow college fund at casino
Letter to the editor, Vancouver Courier

BY JENNIFER LUI
MARCH 25, 2011

To the editor:

Re: “12th and Cambie,” March 18.

I strongly disagree with the idea of building a mega casino in Vancouver. Casinos have a way of sucking the money out of everyone who goes there. The casino itself would make money, but for the family members of the customers, it is a disaster waiting to happen. As a Grade 12 student determined to go to university, I’d like my parents to spend their money on a more meaningful cause. Perhaps they could spend their money on my university tuition; it’s just a thought. If the mega casino were to be built, my parents would probably go there almost every week.

I would rather not see them constantly lose money since they usually do every time they step foot inside a casino. It’s not a pretty sight.

Jennifer Lui,

Vancouver

© Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier

How Vancouverites feel about gambling expansion: the real numbers


Graphic above is from the Justason report (see below)

67% of Vancouverites believe casino expansion will bring significant social problems.

Once again, consistent with all other polls of the Vancouver public, the Ipsos poll released March 24 shows a clear and substantial majority of decided respondents OPPOSE the expansion of Edgewater Casino. Although the margin of error was large and the sample size was very small at 250 Vancouver residents, this is the third poll since February demonstrating a clear lead by expansion opponents over supporters. No poll of Vancouver residents has ever shown public support for the casino expansion, and no poll has shown support within 10 percentage points of opposition.

Below is a summary of the polling data we are aware of. Please note that the figures below reflect DECIDED respondents.  We have allocated undecideds proportionately, so the numbers are different from what you will see on the survey results themselves:

Robbins Sce Research March 14, 2011:
Oppose casino expansion:  58.5%
Support expansion:  41.5%
= 17% gap  in our favour
Margin of error: 4.37% 19 times out of 20 @ 95% confidence
Sample size 503 Vancouver registered voters who voted in the last election.
Phone poll: Vancouver City poll – Casino, Legal Aid, BC Place Roof, Citizens Initiative and Recall, Party popularity 

Justason Market Intelligence  February, 2011
Oppose expansion: 62.5%
Support expansion:  37.5%
= 25% gap in our favour
Margin of error 4.9% 19 times out of 20
Sample size of 662 Vancouver residents.
See the phone and online poll (note: pdf) 

Blue Thorn Research and Analysis Group Report, commissioned by the Province of British Columbia  July, 2007
Here is a 196 page study commissioned by the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch from 2007, reviewing impact and social acceptance of gambling and casinos in 4 metro Vancouver municipalities, including Vancouver:    http://www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/gaming/reports/docs/rpt-rg-impact-study-final.pdf (pdf)
Harm of gambling outweighs benefit:   63.9%
Edgewater is beneficial to community:  15.1%
Page 7 of the report (Executive Summary), or on the pdf p. 11/196:   Sample size was 1000, and INCLUDED THE OPTION OF CANTONESE, MANDARIN, OR PUNJABI RESPONSES.  This survey was weighted to balance for age, gender, and ethnicity. 

From the Executive Summary:

Vancouver has the most negative attitude toward gambling of the four communities. Their negative general attitude toward gambling has significantly increased. In 2004, 56.6% of people believed the harm of gambling outweighed benefits, increasing to 57.4% in 2005, and 63.9% in 2006. The community’s negative attitude toward the Edgewater Casino also became significantly worse. In 2004 only 26.0% believed it was likely to be somewhat or very beneficial to the community. This decreased to 24.4% in 2005 and only 15.1% in 2006.

Nathan Edelson, Former Vancouver City Planner-Presentation to Council

Presentation to City Council Opposing Casino
Nathan Edelson
March 14, 2011

As some of you may recall, I am a former Vancouver City Planner.

Like former Councillors Ladner, Puil and Ford, I am not from Las Vegas; and I don’t support the proposed casino. I am also proud to be on the same side on this issue as many others with others with whom I have worked including Tom Durrie, Herb Barbolet and John Shayler as well as the Community Arts Council of Vancouver, on whose board I serve.

My reasons are simple:
1. The process doesn’t smell right
2. The stadium roof leaks money and doesn’t look right
3. Enabling addiction to gambling as a public policy doesn’t feel right

Process
Regarding the process, the media has reported that a number of former and current public officials have been working behind the scenes or, in some cases, directly for the casino and associated facilities. Whatever their past contributions to public service – and they are considerable – I believe those who have argued that these facilities should be public priorities may have lost their way. Some have strayed so far along the path toward conflict of interest that it is unclear as to whether they have broken the law or whether the law must be fixed.

• The design of the complex is too large and will further block rather than enhance the important linkages between the Downtown Eastside, including Chinatown, and False Creek.
• The stadium roof now litters our skyline – its design is disrespectful of 3 decades of careful work to protect public views
• The stadium and the roof cost more than $560M. That these funds were spent in advance of this public hearing is disrespectful of the City’s rezoning process.
• More importantly, this is a misallocation of public funds when:

– Hundreds of homeless live on our streets
–Thousands of our children are unsafe in schools that need seismic upgrading; and
–Tim Bits are served in the emergency rooms of our hospitals

The TEAM Council on which Marguerite Ford served in the 1970’s achieved greatness.
1. It had a clear vision of a city made up of liveable, inclusive and engaged communities.
2. It also had the courage to say NO to the freeways that many experts declared were both necessary and inevitable.

The result is what is recognized as one of the most liveable cities in the world, at least for most, if not all of us.

Should you decide that you have to approve this proposal, be careful to check every detail of the permits. I helped negotiate a Community Benefit Agreement with the original owners of Edgewater so that inner city residents would be given at least 10% of the new jobs.

Many of these were contracted through Cook Studio – a social enterprise that trained low income youth. It was contracted to do offsite catering and to operate the onsite restaurant. When Paragon took over ownership of Edgewater, they cancelled the contract. This contributed to Cook Studio going bankrupt and the loss of opportunity for dozens of young people who were taking their first steps out of poverty.

I think it is important for all of us to recognize that Edgewater has been a good employer. This is why so many of its workers have taken the time to speak on behalf of the company and the pride they have in their jobs.

However, I would ask you to question Paragon as to why so many of its current workers fear that unless the casino is expanded, they may lose their jobs. If the Casino – at its current size is relocated or the license is transferred to another company, Council can help protect their jobs as a condition of development or other permissions.

More than a decade ago, Mayor Philip Owen had to wisdom to understand that addiction to illegal drugs is a public health issue. It is time for us to understand that this is also true of Addiction to Gambling.

I would suggest a Four Pillar approach to reduce government’s Addiction to Gambling.

1. The first pillar is Prevention
On one side of the chips, show the high proportion of revenue that comes from the poor;
On the other side, show where the revenues actually go; and
On the large screens show the people driven into bankruptcy, their foreclosures, divorces and innocent children.
2. The second Pillar is Harm Reduction
Develop a policy of no increase in slot machines and tables; and
Gradually eliminate highly addictive internet gambling
3. Treatment is the third pillar
Create a fair taxation policy – so that governments have the resources to provide needed public services without relying on the proceeds of gambling.
4. The fourth pillar is Enforcement
•  Work with the Province to carry out a full public inquiry into all the events that led to the proposal before you this evening. This should include the circumstances under which Paragon took over ownership of Edgewater, the proposal for more than tripling the size of the casino, the public expenditures on stadium and the public engagement process.
•  Whether or not the inquiry reveals illegal activity has taken place, it should check to make sure that the laws regulating conflict of interest are clear and adequately reflect the public’s sense of right and wrong.
•  This will help public officials – both current and former – “To know their limit; and to stay within it.”

In my view, and those of many who have spoken and will speak before you, we need to recognize that the casino is like a freeway – a Social Freeway to Nowhere. Like the TEAM Council of the 1970’s, you have an opportunity to turn this proposal down and to have staff complete much needed planning for this area.

Finally, I think it is important that the roof – the roof that would be retractable – remain for decades to come.

Like the Georgia Viaduct before it, it should serve as a symbol for the path we chose not to take. A reminder that in the early part of this century – with all of its challenges – that Vancouver’s City Council chose to work with the senior governments to house our homeless, protect the lives of our children and become the Greenest, and the most liveable place on earth – not for most of us; but for all of us.

Presentation to Council by Hilary Reid

This comprehensive presentation was made to Vancouver City Council by gaming expert Hilary Reid on the first day of public hearings on the proposed Edgewater Casino expansion.

Brief Regarding Edgewater Casino and Gambling Expansion Proposal
Submitted to Vancouver City Council Public Hearing
March 7th, 2011
by Hilary Reid

Mayor and Council, thank you for seeking public input on the Edgewater Casino expansion.

 

A former Provincial Opposition leader had this to say about gambling:
“I want to build an economy based on winners, not losers, and gambling is always based on losers. The only way government makes money on gambling is because you lose it.” (as quoted in The Vancouver Sun, Oct. 8th, 2009).
The speaker went on to become the Liberal Premier of BC. His name is Gordon Campbell.

I address you as a long time Vancouver citizen, as a post secondary educator, and as someone who has done a lot of research on the effects of gambling expansion in North America.

Mayor Robertson, in a recent Vancouver Sun article on the 2010 Olympics, you stated that “We will pursue our goals to be the world’s greenest city, the safest city, and the most liveable city….a city of compassion, where we strive to make sure none are left behind.” (Vancouver Sun, Feb. 12, 2011).

These are worthy goals, but will call for some hard choices. One of these choices is before you now. You will not be able to both approve this huge casino, and achieve these stated goals.

Let me explain why.

Continue reading

Unified in Action – Vancouver churches oppose casino expansion

The following is an historic letter from major downtown Vancouver churches in opposition to the expansion of the Edgewater Casino. The churches are St. Andrew’s Wesley, Central Presbyterian Church, Christ Church Cathedral, First Baptist Church, and St. Paul’s Anglican Church:

Unified in Action

Clergy and Staff from Downtown Vancouver Churches

Mayor and Council
City of Vancouver

March 9, 2011

Re: Mega-Casino Opposition
Dear Mayor Robertson and City Council:

The undersigned, clergy and staff from major downtown Vancouver churches have agreed, personally and collectively, to stand in opposition to the proposed expansion of The Edgewater Casino in The Yaletown-False Creek area.

We are particularly concerned that the people of Vancouver have not been adequately consulted on the subject of gambling expansion in the city, and we are especially concerned that those who work and reside in the Vancouver downtown core have not been adequately informed of the plans to redefine life in the downtown area through the construction of this mega-casino.

We do not support the enormous expansion of the Edgewater Casino and its proximity to the soon-to-be-reopened BC Place Stadium, particularly when it is proposed to become the centrepiece of a large “entertainment complex” complete with hotels, restaurants, and other facilities.

Well documented social ills which accompany any and all casino developments are more than sufficient reasons for us to oppose this planned development. Our resistance is magnified even further when we see the scale of the casino that is proposed to be located in the heart of downtown!

We call on Vancouver Mayor and City Council to impose a moratorium on all gaming expansion in our municipality pending a full and comprehensive public review of gambling, its regulation, and the appropriate gaming revenue-sharing formula with municipalities and non-profit organizations.

From: St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church
Rev. Gary Paterson, Senior Minister
Jennifer Cunnings, Minister of Children, Families and Seniors
Tim Scorer, Minister of Adult Formation
Michael Dobbin, Director of Development

From: Central Presbyterian Church
Rev. Jim Smith, Minister

From: Christ Church Cathedral
The Very Reverend Dr. Peter Elliott, Dean,
The Venerable Dr. Ellen Clark-King, Associate
The Reverend Alisdair Smith, Deacon
The Reverend Chris Dierkes, Curate,
The Reverend Dixie Black, Deacon

From: First Baptist Church
Rev. Darrell W. Johnson, Senior Minister
Rev. Dr. John Cuddeford, Minister
Andrea Tisher, Dir. of Music & Worship
Rev. Bob Swann, Minister of Mission & Justice
Judy Lang, Ass. Minister for Congregational Care
Pastor Janet G. Porcino, Minister of Discipleship
Luz Figueroa, Director of Children and Family Ministries
Rev. Abraham Han, Minister of Urban & Community Life

From: St. Paul’s Anglican Church
The Rev. Markus Duenzkofer, Incumbent


 

Opposition Gaming Critic Shane Simpson calls on Christy Clark to examine gaming issues

We received this letter today:

March 9, 2011

SIMPSON CALLS ON PREMIER-DESIGNATE TO EXAMINE GAMING ISSUES

VICTORIA – New Democrat gaming critic Shane Simpson has sent a letter to Premier-designate Christy Clark laying out a number of concerns resulting in a crisis of confidence in government-run gambling in British Columbia. Simpson’s letter outlines government mismanagement of gaming issues, including dealing with problem gambling, providing stable and adequate funding to community organizations through gaming grants, addressing concerns about expanding gambling, and monitoring and enforcement of money laundering in casinos.

The original letter is attached as a PDF, and the text is also copied below.

Text of Shane Simpson’s letter to Premier-designate Christy Clark:

Dear Premier-designate Clark,

I am writing concerning the crisis of confidence that is growing in British Columbia regarding government-run gambling in our province. British Columbians are seeing a Minister who does not have a handle on his file and consequently a BC Lottery Corporation that is out of control.

This is best exemplified by the wide-ranging opposition to the Paragon proposal for downtown Vancouver; this opposition crosses political lines and is clearly fuelled by the public’s deep concern over the BCLC’s and your government’s approach to gaming.

The complete mismanagement of problem gambling has increased the risk for some 156,000 of our citizens, as identified by the BC Medical Association. This has been exacerbated by your government’s decision, with no consultation, to expand online gambling, including increasing spending limits to $9,999 from $120 per week, a move that addictions experts have called risky and irresponsible.

British Columbians continue to hear story after story about organized crime being involved in our casinos. Just yesterday, we learned of new concerns around the BCLC’s failure to prevent people from walking into casinos with suitcases full of cash and chips then cashing out with little scrutiny. The media reports of mismanagement are too numerous to list, and include issues that have led FINTRAC to fine the province $670,000 for over 1,000 reporting violations. Many of these concerns have been reinforced by RCMP comments about the inadequacies of the BCLC response.

The bungling of the launch of PlayNow.com leading to a privacy breach and a month-long delay in the launch of the site added to questions about the management of this file.

The BCLC response to these concerns have been reactive at best, with much more attention being paid to million-dollar ad campaigns trying to paper over these problems, something that few British Columbians find acceptable.

Worse still, the government’s decision to slash gaming grants has led to severe hardship or the closure of hundreds of community organizations. None of this is helped by the refusal of the government to separate the Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch and the BCLC into different ministries; the need to separate enforcement from promotion of gambling is obvious to most British Columbians, but not to many of your colleagues at the cabinet table.

While I understand you have announced your intention to set up a commission with a somewhat vague mandate, I see no reason to believe this will be able to adequately address these issues. Given the critical nature of the problem, I believe government must not stall the important task of taking a comprehensive look at all aspects of how gambling is conducted in the province, and I also believe the Legislature needs to play a role in that review. The mechanism for this is through the Select Standing Committee on Crown Corporations, which could prove more effective both in terms of time and money.

For these reasons, I am calling on you to reconvene the Special Committee of Selection so that the Legislative Assembly can appoint members to the Standing Committee on Crown Corporations, which could then be reconvened and directed to do an immediate and full review of government gambling including the calling of witnesses. This could easily occur at the same time the Legislature addresses a date change for the HST vote.

The committee must address a number of critical issues, including, but not limited to:

1) How to properly support problem gambling. Of critical importance to this discussion is the separation of the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch into a separate government ministry from BCLC’s gambling promotion activities.

2) How to provide stable and adequate funding to charities and community organizations who are supposed to benefit from gambling revenues as part of the government’s social contract. The $15 million increase you have promised to community organizations still falls $24 million short of 2008/09 funding levels.

3) How to address the significant concerns of the people of British Columbia who worry about expanding gambling, as evidenced by the widespread opposition to the expansion of the downtown Vancouver casino.

4) How to effectively monitor and crack down on illegal money laundering activity in casinos.

5) An assessment of the proliferation of gambling facilities in the Lower Mainland and whether it is now counterproductive to continue expansion.

Given the serious nature of these issues, I am calling for you to take drastic action including replacing Mr. Coleman as the Minister responsible for this file, and instructing BCLC to immediately suspend any gaming expansion, including the Paragon relocation and expansion project in Vancouver, until the committee has reported out to the Assembly. These actions would demonstrate your agreement that this file needs real and immediate attention. I trust you agree with me that this is an urgent matter, and as such the committee should be directed to report back within eight months.

Gambling revenues have become an important source for government. However, the people of British Columbia expect a high standard of scrutiny and responsibility with this file. They have not received that from the Minister or the BCLC. They now expect you to act.

I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Shane Simpson, MLA, Vancouver-Hastings
Opposition Critic for Housing and Social Development

Facts – History of the casino issue at City Hall

These are the facts: Whatever Premier Campbell has said, whatever PavCo has said, an expanded casino at B.C. Place stadium has never been discussed or approved by Vancouver City Council.

The current City Council agreed on Oct. 22, 2009 that a casino was an approved use at B.C. Place (there’s already one across the street). BUT nowhere in the Oct. 22/09 policy statement was there any discussion about an expanded casino. The size of the casino was never debated.

The staff recommendation to amend the False Creek North Official Development Plan, approved at a Sept. 16, 2008 council meeting, made no mention of an expanded casino. Nor does the word “casino” appear anywhere in the minutes of the Sept. 16 meeting, or in the minutes of an Oct. 18 public hearing following it.

At the Oct. 18, 2008 meeting, in the heat of an election campaign, Council unanimously approved allowing “city- and region-serving cultural, recreational and institutional uses including consideration of the Vancouver Art Gallery as a use, generally as set out in Appendix A.”

Only in Appendix A do the words “expanded casino” appear, without any reference to the major policy change this entails, or definition of “expanded casino” or further discussion of this major change in city policy. The words in the appendix are: “Council may allow sub-area zonings to include other cultural and recreational facilities, including a major art gallery and a major casino that will also serve the city and region.”

Those zonings would have to be referred to a public hearing before becoming policy.

This in no way constitutes council approval for an expanded casino.

FOI Requests: PavCo’s Request for Expressions of Interest shows only 2 bidders

 

In short, what we learn from these is that the bid process for developing the property at B.C. Place Stadium was very short and yielded only 2 bidders – Concord and Paragon. Apologies for size. Each PDF is large – downloading may take a minute.

PavCo Request for Expressions of Interest – Part 1 (nearly 2 MB – if you want a clearer, larger copy, please email us)

PavCo Request for Expressions of Interest – Part 2 (caution: over 4 MB)

BC Place / Paragon Press Packet

Here is the most recent BCPlace/ParagonPressPacket. PDF – approx 1.5 MB.

It offers a full description of the planned complex. There are many questions raised by the plan: are all these new hotel rooms going to be subsidized by the casino? Vancouver already has a surfeit of hotel rooms — will these rooms undercut other hotels? And many more…

As an aside, we hardly need to point out that if you have to say you’re World Class”… you’re not.