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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Vancouver Not Vegas Calls for Reinstatement of Specialized Casino Police Unit

Photo via CBC
The Vancouver Not Vegas coalition calls for Premier Clark to reinstate the Integrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team (IIGET), following revelations that suspicious transactions have more than doubled in casinos since 2011.

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

See also:
Former Commander IIGET comments on casino oversight:
http://www.publiceyeonline.com/archives/004373.html
http://www.publiceyeonline.com/archives/004427.html
http://www.publiceyeonline.com/archives/004907.html

Appendix A:

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.”

(emphasis added)

Vancouver Not Vegas Calls on Province to Block Graydon Appointment

Vancouver Not Vegas Calls on Province to Block Graydon Appointment

Michael Graydon BCLC

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

http://corporate.bclc.com/content/dam/bclc/corporate/documents/soebc-for-employees.pdf

Gaming Control Act:

http://www.bclaws.ca/Recon/document/ID/freeside/00_02014_01

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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Media contacts:

Sandy Garossino
Please TEXT queries to:
778-231-5230

Ian Pitfield
604-828-5494

Brazen Conflict of Interest by Former CEO Exposes Feeble Governance at BCLC

Michael Graydon BCLC

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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Media contacts:

Sandy Garossino
Please TEXT queries to:
778-231-5230

Ian Pitfield
604-828-5494

http://vancouvernotvegas.ca

See also this original story.

Message from Sandy, Lindsay, Ian & VNV to supporters following the Development Board hearing

Vancouver DPB

Message from Sandy, Lindsay, Ian & VNV to supporters following the Development Board hearing on December 16, 2013

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

vancouver-not-vegas

“Citizens denied input on casino” – Hilary Reid, letter to the Vancouver Sun

View of site of proposed Edgewater casino at BC Place Stadium (where the bright billboard is)

Citizens denied input on casino

Re: Paragon’s pitch to double size of casino floor arouses concern, Dec. 17

Democracy was not served on Dec. 16 when the Vancouver development permit board held a public hearing on Paragon’s new casino proposal.

Many people who called the city were told there was no hearing, and even city hall had no reference to this critically important meeting on their website.

Although about two dozen citizens concerned about the social costs of expanded gambling spoke strongly against the doubled casino floor space at the hearing, their compelling, well-researched submissions were virtually ignored by the development permit board. The project passed with only minor conditions.

When Vancouver decided to build a new public library downtown, three architects’ renderings were presented for the public to vote on.

Edgewater Casino’s monstrous and inappropriate design, by contrast, is being rammed down our throats.

In the interests of a true democratic process, the public should be given a proper opportunity to comment on the building design for this iconic and highly visible site by BC Place before we are stuck with this eyesore at the heart of our city forever.

HILARY REID, Vancouver

Original here. And to read Hilary Reid’s presentation to Council at the casino hearings of 2011, click here.

Kendall Report A Game-Changer for Edgewater: Public Health Leaders Call for Action on Addiction

Vancouver DPB

Kendall Report A Game-Changer for Edgewater:
Public Health Leaders Call for Action on Addiction

In light of the recent findings of Dr. Perry Kendall, BC’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Vancouver Not Vegas announces today that over 30 Vancouver and BC public health experts, scholars and eminent citizens call for the Edgewater Casino application to go back to Council for comprehensive public review and implementation of a harm reduction strategy.

Notable signatories include Senator Pat Carney, Dr. John Blatherwick, and BC’s leading experts on addiction and public health.

In October, BC Chief Medical Health Officer Dr Perry Kendall issued a major report, Lower the Stakes, which found that gambling addiction in BC has more than doubled from 2001-07, the greatest period of gambling expansion in the province. Dr. Kendall called for strong government intervention to curb addictions, including limiting alcohol service, hours of operation, and raising prices.

This call has been ignored by the provincial government.

On December 16th the new Edgewater Casino project goes before the Development Permit Board for approval, upon which construction can commence.

“The Kendall report changes everything for the Edgewater proposal,” says Sandy Garossino, spokesperson of Vancouver Not Vegas, “the public health community wants to see government action, and polls show that the community is fully behind them.”

Among those calling for review are scientist Gerald Thomas, lead writer of Dr. Kendall’s report, and Dr. Lu Shao-Hua, who chaired the 2009 BCMA report, Stepping Forward, Improving Addiction Care in BC. They stepped forward as private citizens, as do the many other leading members of the community.

“For over a decade decisions about expanding the availability of gambling have been made almost entirely on fiscal grounds,” says Gerald Thomas, “It is time that public health and safety concerns be brought meaningfully into these discussions, and the Edgewater expansion is an excellent place to start that process. Gambling has substantial public health implications and therefore IS a public health issue.”

“Gambling addiction is intimately linked to other mental health issues and substantially overlaps with other addictions,” adds Dr. Lu. “One cannot tackle the enormous addiction problems in Vancouver without seriously addressing harm reduction in gambling.”

Other supporters include Dr. John Blatherwick, former Chief Medical Health Officer for Vancouver, Dr. Michael Stevenson, President Emeritus of SFU, and many others of eminent reputation whose names are appended to this release.

Vancouver Not Vegas applauds the resolve of Vancouver City Council in rejecting Edgewater’s application for a massive increase in slot machines and gaming tables, and for Councillor Kerry Jang’s motion to refer Dr. Kendall’s report to the Vancouver Medical Health Officer for consideration.

However, in light of the Kendall Report and its recommendations, we ask that Council deepen its commitment to its own Healthy City Strategy. As polls indicate, a majority of Vancouverites are dissatisfied with the casino development, and want it reviewed or stopped altogether.

Vancouver Not Vegas proposes that the City adopt the following measures prior to the grant of any development permit:

1.  Review the zoning of the subject property and confine zoned casino floor space to an appropriate size;
2.  Limit all casino and slot machine operations in Vancouver to bar hours;
3.  Limit or regulate the service of alcohol in gaming environments.

Certainty and predictability are vital to the public and to business operators. The time to establish rules and standards is before investors become so committed to a project that there’s no turning back.

____________________

List of community and public health leaders attached as Appendix i—see following page

Media contacts:

Sandy Garossino: TEXT ONLY please, to book interviews 778-231-5230
Gerald Thomas PhD: 250-317-2615
Dr. Lu Shao-Hua 604-780-9087

Appendix i

Supporters

(Please note that descriptors denote background and qualifications only. All supporters have signed as private citizens, not as representatives)

Gerald Thomas PhD Collaborating Scientist, Centre for Addictions Research of BC, UVIC; lead author of Provincial Health Officer report: “Lower the Stakes”

Dr. Lu Shaohua, Clinical & Associate Professor, UBC
Addiction and Consulting Psychiatrist, Chair of BCMA 2009 report Stepping Forward: Improving Addiction Care in British Columbia

Senator Pat Carney, (ret’d)

Dr. John Blatherwick, Vancouver Chief Medical Officer 1984-2007

Dr. Michael Stevenson President Emeritus, SFU

Dr. Bruce Alexander, Professor Emeritus SFU, author, The Globalization of Addiction

Dr. Penny Gurstein, Director of the School of Community and Regional Planning and the Centre for Human Settlements. UBC

Trevor Boddy, Critic, Curator, Historian of architecture/urbanism

Dr. Malcolm Steinberg, Director, Masters in Public Health Program, SFU

James Frankish PhD, Director, Centre for Population Health Promotion Research, UBC

Andy Yan, Adjunct Professor, UBC School of Community and Regional Planning, BTAWorks

Jeff Brooks, former Director of Social Planning, City of Vancouver

Dr. Gabor Maté, Physician, author and addictions expert

Dr. Tom Perry,  former MLA and Minister of Advanced Education, Training & Technology, currently physician at UBC Hospital

Bing Thom, Architect AIBC, CM, RAIC Gold Medalist

Ian Pitfield, former justice of the BC Supreme Court and trial judge for the landmark Insite case

Katherine Wellburn, lawyer, former Registrar in Bankruptcy, BC Supreme Court

George Bowering, Order of Canada, OBC, Former Poet Laureate of Canada

Seth Klein, Executive Director, CCPA Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Gillian Maxwell, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition

Harvey Mackinnon, Author and international charitable fundraising consultant

Adriane Carr, Vancouver City Councillor, Former leader of the Green Party of BC

Ellen Woodsworth, Former Vancouver City Councillor

Peter Ladner, Former Vancouver City Councillor, writer for Business in Vancouver

Jason Feng, former floor manager, River Rock Casino

Nathan Edelson, Former City of Vancouver planner

Martha Burton

Mo Dhaliwal, Director of Strategy for Skyrocket, Director Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration

Ken Lum, Internationally renowned BC artist

Brian Jungen, Internationally renowned BC artist

Dick & Val Bradshaw, Philanthropists.

Vik Khanna, Co-Founder & COO at Faronics, philanthropist

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Petition: Asking the City of Vancouver’s Development Permit Board to refer Edgewater Casino application back to Council

Vancouver DPB

Please sign our petition. 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’s permit 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 signatures

Signatures
659Tokuko WrayJan 18, 2014
658Jose MangueJan 13, 2014
657Lila LaneJan 10, 2014
656val clarkJan 06, 2014
655Michael ProskowJan 06, 2014
654Kathy LauDec 29, 2013
653Ryan KruminsDec 21, 2013
652Harrison FordDec 21, 2013
651Jessica BruhnDec 20, 2013
650ugly as all heck build something less appallingly uglyDec 19, 2013
649Stewart McLeanDec 19, 2013
648Liliane KarnoukDec 19, 2013
647Manon LeeDec 19, 2013
646Edgar BridwellDec 18, 2013
645Romari UndiDec 18, 2013
644Daniel ShawDec 18, 2013
643Kathryn AllisonDec 17, 2013
642Yvonne LamDec 17, 2013
641Esther YuenDec 17, 2013
640Ryan TongDec 17, 2013
639Marco Del MonteDec 17, 2013
638Janet CartenDec 17, 2013
637Michele SimDec 17, 2013
636I want to gamble, dont take that away from me so fck this noise, batchesDec 17, 2013
635Dos BatosDec 17, 2013
634Pauvre fille t'es ridicule !Dec 17, 2013
633alright whos doing these fake names ..................... its meDec 17, 2013
632ur all fgts fck uDec 17, 2013
631Josh MontgomeryDec 17, 2013
630mike hawkDec 17, 2013
629 lil Timmy SnowdenDec 17, 2013
628LickMY ANUSDec 17, 2013
627Juicy jDec 17, 2013
626adolf hitlerDec 17, 2013
625Caroline Le BretonDec 17, 2013
624Audrey FooDec 17, 2013
623Ryan StevensDec 17, 2013
622Lindsay BurkeDec 17, 2013
621bev leederDec 17, 2013
620Harpreet SondhDec 17, 2013
619Tyson HernandezDec 17, 2013
618Chris LohDec 17, 2013
617Laurie MacKenzieDec 17, 2013
616Lyndsay PoapsDec 17, 2013
615John E WalkerDec 16, 2013
614Rowan BrownDec 16, 2013
613Ken WanDec 16, 2013
612kerr mcleodDec 16, 2013
611Leo ChangDec 16, 2013
610vanessa richardsDec 16, 2013

VNV asks CoV’s Development Permit Board to return Edgewater Casino proposal to City Council for further review

Photo via CBC

On December 17, 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 17, 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.

_______________________________________________________

Vancouver DPB

The Kendall Report: gambling addiction in BC has doubled in 5 years

Photo via CBC
Photo via CBC

[Please sign our petition here, after reading! Thank you.]

CBC: “The number of severely-addicted gamblers in British Columbia has more than doubled while the provincial government has taken in billions in gaming revenue, according to a new report from the Provincial Health Officer.

The concerning figures have prompted B.C. medical health officer Dr. Perry Kendall to call for more government investment in gambling prevention and treatment programs.

The report, released Wednesday, analyzed data collected between 2002 and 2007. It showed that even though gambling activities have generally declined, the number of people with a severe gambling problem has risen from 13,000 to 31,000.”

The Kendall Report requires an immediate response from provincial and municipal governments. The report was published over six weeks ago, and yet there has been no reaction from the BC government or the City of Vancouver. Meanwhile, we are heading for a development permit hearing on December 17 for the massive casino building – at its original massive size, ripe for future expansion – in downtown Vancouver adjoining BC Place Stadium. One of the largest demographics for rising gambling addiction is young males. Why has there been no reaction to the Kendall Report?

VNV responds to renewed plans for massive downtown Vancouver casino

Sept 24, 2013

Full text of our statement today in response to Paragon Gaming’s announcement of renewed plans to build a massive casino “resort” in downtown Vancouver.

Vancouver Not Vegas responds to Paragon Gaming announcement 
September 24, 2013

In 2011 Vancouverites united and spoke with one voice that we don’t want a mega-casino in our city.  This is not who we are, nor the values we want to project about our city.  We do not choose to offload the cost of government onto the weak and the vulnerable. And we’re not alone. Cities across Canada are telling governments they’ve had it with the relentless attempt to force gambling into our communities.

Yet despite a resounding 11-0 vote in Vancouver City Council that rejected the proposal, here we are again.

Yet again there has been no transparency, no disclosure, no public consultation of a massive casino project.  Yet again a glamourous shiny announcement of a half-billion dollar project is foisted on the public with few details.

The most important feature of the Paragon announcement is the information still being withheld from the public.

  1. No disclosure of the planned casino floor space. Vancouver City Council, with no public debate on this key point, approved a rezoning of over 2.5 acres of casino floor space for this site—that’s over 2 NFL football fields.
  2. No disclosure of the very significant public subsidies going into the construction and maintenance of the development.  Does the BC Lottery Corporation facility development contribution remain at $16.9 million annually, as outlined in the Deloitte Report issued in 2010?
  3. No disclosure of the public subsidy in the form of the 50% lease discount negotiated with PavCo.  These lands were supposed to help pay for the stadium roof.  Now the lease won’t even pay the interest on the debt.

This is a terrible deal for both the City of Vancouver and the Province of BC.  If Edgewater cannot expand its slot machines and gaming tables, it’s a business certainty that revenues to the province and the city will fall, because Edgewater’s expenses are about to rise precipitously.  There are no independent pro formas detailing projected earnings. It’s vital to remember that the Edgewater Casino has never met the original revenue promises it made to the city upon which its original license was granted.

End to end, this is a money losing proposition that will only add to the millions of dollars the public loses annually in the operation of BC Place.

Vancouver Not Vegas has filed a petition in BC Supreme Court contesting the relocation.

Statement by Sandy Garossino on behalf of VNV
Text queries to 778-231-5230

Addendum:

Video via here.