Author Archives: dontgamblevancouver

When a small Richmond, B.C. casino expanded to become River Rock…

Here’s what happened when Richmond, B.C.’s small Bridgeport Casino expanded to become the River Rock Casino. Vancouver Sun, October 25, 2007. Also see “Richmond sees rash of casino-related crime” on canada.com.

Casino a crime magnet: RCMP

The opening of River Rock Casino in Richmond has led to a quadrupling of casino-related crime and allowed new organized crime groups to gain a foothold in the city, according to an internal RCMP report obtained by The Sun:

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Testimony of US professor Robert Goodman, non-partisan expert on gambling, economics and urban design

This is a long video, but engaging and worth watching. It focuses to some extent on the impacts of gambling when it is placed near residential areas, but it is full of information relevant to any casino application in North America.

Bob Goodman is a Professor of Economic Development, Urban Planning and Environmental Design at Amherst in Massachussetts. He was retained in the early 90s by the Ford Foundation to carry out a study of the economic costs and benefits of legalized gambling. The original study was done for local governments who were trying to decide whether to allow gambling expansion. He has produced a number of major studies and economic analyses of gambling expansion throughout the 1990s and 2000s, and has been hired by both Democrat and Republican administrations and sat on numerous federal committees.

The video of Goodman was is from a 2008 public hearing for a proposed gambling expansion in Philadelphia. His study of over 200 towns has shown that with very few exceptions the introduction of gambling has had serious adverse affects on business and local economies.

It should be noted that Goodman comes from a union family and has a strong concern for jobs (he’s currently working on the job crisis in Detroit). He makes clear that he has no moral objections to gambling, and confesses that he gambles a little himself and has played in poker tournaments.

Click here for a summary of his report Legalized Gambling: Public Policy and Economic Development Issues (pdf). It summarizes his testimony before Congress and was published in the Fall 1995 edition of Economic Development Review.

Summary of issues surrounding the Edgwater Casino expansion plan

UPDATE: here is a fuller summary of issues with the Edgewater Casino expansion (PDF with hyperlinks).

This post is for those interested in some of the more technical details surrounding the Edgewater Casino application. To read the full application, visit the City of Vancouver site.

Procedural Issues

1. No Adequate Notice to Public

The application before Council is described as a re-zoning application by PavCo (crown corporation BC Pavilion Co). Included, but not detailed in the public notice, is a second application by Edgewater Casino for a by-law amendment licensing approximately 1000 new slot machines and 75 new slot machines; Notices mailed only to residents within a 2 block radius of the project, etc.

No notice to public of scale of expansion: gaming floor equivalent to two NFL football fields (114k sq. ft)

2. Due Diligence gaps

a) Calculation of expected revenues only, no calculation of expected costs–policing, counseling, housing homeless;
b) No report on mental health and addiction issues/social ills;
c) Policing report is one paragraph long. Only one sentence respecting organized crime, money laundering. No estimate of impact or cost to manage. No weapons policy or enforcement provisions in a casino/hotel/sports complex. No reference to the RCMP report cautioning about extreme vulnerability to organized crime and infiltration.
d) Background check of Paragon Gaming–corporate profile misrepresented in public materials. No assessment of suitability to operate a major project of this scale.

3. Key Information Relevant to Public Review

PavCo represents that there is no risk to the taxpayer in the corporate structure of the project; however:

The BC Lottery Corporation Facility Development Commissions (FDC) and Accelerated Facility Development Commissions (AFDC) cover roughly 42% of casino capital development expenses.

Do FDC’s and AFDC’s extend to ancillary buildings such as hotels, restaurants, theatres, and parkades?

Projections indicate the cost of the complex will be approximately $450 million. 42% is almost $190 million in public money. The BC Lottery Corporation has budgeted for capital expenditures of $346 million over the next 3 fiscal years. What percentage of that will go into the Edgewater development?

a) Public disclosure of all financial commitments
b) Public disclosure of the deal structure: Is there an incentive to overbuild? How are expenses calculated and netted out?

4. Irregularities in the BC Lottery Corporation and PavCo Bid Process

a) BC Lottery Corporation board chair Richard Turner purchases shares in Paragon Gaming (operating in Alberta) in 2003. Share purchase violates board code of conduct, and is not disclosed until 2005.
b) In late 2005 Turner resigns from BCLC board. Summer 2006 Paragon Gaming purchases Edgewater Casino out of bankruptcy and installs Turner on the board of Paragon.
c) Fall 2008, City plan for Northeast False Creek is amended to permit major casino at request of PavCo.
d) March 2009, PavCo puts out an RFEI (Expressions of Interest), with an 18 day window. Only two respondents, including Paragon, reply. While the Paragon bid is before PavCo during the RFP phase one month later, Turner issues a $50k cheque to the BC Liberal Party. Paragon Gaming is the successful bidder
e) Autumn 2009 Turner places a phone call to Minister Kevin Krueger advising that Paragon will withdraw if the roof is not built per plans.

What were all the communications between Richard Turner and PavCo in the period 2005-2009?

5. Criminal Concerns

2006: Richmond loan shark Lily Li is murdered. Evidence emerges at trial that loan sharks operate on shifts 24/7 inside River Rock Casino;
2009, January: RCMP special unit IIGET (Integrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team) issues a report to government warning of “extreme vulnerability” of casino industry to organized crime–money laundering, infiltration, loan sharking. No resources to investigate suspected money laundering. Concerns expressed about perception of conflict of interest and corruption. Most information redacted from report.
2009. February: IIGET disbanded
2010/ Summer: BC Lottery Corporation fined by FINTRAC for repeated failure to monitor suspicious transactions. First fine of its kind in Canada.
2010/August-October: CBC investigates over $8 million in suspicious transactions at 2 casinos in Metro Vancouver, including $460k in 20’s in plastic bags, and a suitcase with $1.2 million in casino chips.
Insp. Baxter, head of Proceeds of Crime Unit, calls transactions suspicious. Solicitor General Rich Coleman, also responsible for gaming, disagrees that transactions are suspicious and publicly disagrees with Baxter.

Conclusion: Weak BCLC enforcement of rules of conduct and poor compliance and oversight of casinos, leaving the industry vulnerable to uncontrolled criminal conduct and potentially to infiltration.

6. Paragon Gaming: Parent Co of Edgewater

All other projects and operations are on First Nations reserves in the US and Canada. All are small market. No international tourism expertise. No expertise with the Asian market.

BC’s model: Closed door bidding process with a single (geographically pre-selected) casino applicant, and no public input.

By contrast, Missouri recently awarded a casino license in an open, public, competitive bidding process, with multiple applicants and more than one physical location. The successful bidder demonstrated both strong community support via a referendum, and strong local roots in the community. Paragon Gaming was one of the bidders in this process, but was unable to garner a single vote of support from the Missouri Gaming Commission.

US small market casino operations have notoriety, particularly vis-à-vis political corruption. In more than one instance, individuals with some connection to Paragon Gaming or their advisors have been implicated, charged, or convicted on political corruption charges. A detailed background check on Paragon Gaming is recommended, including investigation of the relationship of Paragon principles with Milton McGregor and Robert Sigler (shareholder in Paragon Gaming Missouri) of Alabama.

Vancouver – Before and After Edgewater mega-casino


Above, before Edgewater mega-casino (and before the white stadium roof was replaced by spiky retractable roof). In the photo directly above, you can see the existing Edgewater casino which occupies the green glass building in the forefront, also known as the Plaza of Nations built for Expo ’86. The City plans to allow the demolition of this glass building. The new Edgewater Casino has triple the capacity of the current operation.

Below, planned Edgewater mega-casino butted up against the Cambie bridge end of BC Place Stadium. It looks as if the huge stadium girders have been downplayed in these drawings. Don’t be fooled; it’s enormous. It only looks modest because it’s adjacent to a massive stadium.

A picture is worth a thousand words. What are yours? Write the Mayor and Council and tell them what you think. Public hearings are this Thursday, Feb. 17, sometime after 7:30 pm, so don’t delay.

Speeches by Bing Thom, Peter Ladner and Sandy Garossino

Three members of our Vancouver Not Vegas! Coalition speak out against the proposed Edgewater mega-casino.

How you can help us today

This casino plan can be defeated. It’s looking promising, but we need your help to win. No Dice!

1.  Sign our petition (top left of page).

2. Sign up to speak City Council at the Feb. 17 public hearings – Tell them “No Dice.” Dial 311 or 604-873-7191. Or simply come sit in the gallery with us.

3. Write to Vancouver Mayor and Council. Use the City of Vancouver feedback form or Click here to write your own email. mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca, gregor.robertson@vancouver.ca, michael.magee@vancouver.ca, geoff.meggs@vancouver.ca, tim.stevenson@vancouver.ca, ellen.woodsworth@vancouver.ca, suzanne.anton@vancouver.ca, david.cadman@vancouver.ca, andrea.reimer@vancouver.ca, kerry.jang@vancouver.ca, clrlouie@vancouver.ca, heather.deal@vancouver.ca, george.chow@vancouver.ca, vancouvernotvegas@gmail.com

4. Sign our Petition.

5. Volunteer! Send us an email.

Thank you, Vancouver! This is OUR home. Don’t let them roll the dice on our city’s future.

Position Statement of the Vancouver Not Vegas! Coalition

Vancouver Not Vegas opposes the proposed expansion of Edgewater Casino and calls for a moratorium on all expansion of gambling in Vancouver.

Shane Koyczan joins Vancouver Not Vegas! Coalition – “We are More”!

This is the first anniversary of the Olympics Opening Ceremonies. Today Shane Koyczan joins our coalition against the Edgewater mega-casino and against gaming expansion in Vancouver and in BC in general. You probably remember Shane’s electric slam poetry performance at the 2011 Games ceremony – if you don’t, you can see it below. Thanks to Shane for lending his name to this fight. “We are More!”

Public Forum on Casino plan, Wed Feb 9 in Chinatown

UPDATE: Thanks to the many people who came out on Wednesday night despite hockey traffic and difficult parking. Bing Thom, Peter Ladner and Sandy Garossino gave great speeches, the crowd was fired up, and there is a high level of community commitment to fight this casino plan until it is stopped.

Observations from the meeting:

The stories of political corruption, backroom deals, faulty bidding processes and serious allegations of conflict of interest really angered the crowd;

The term “moratorium on gaming expansion”  received applause whenever it was spoken; this is in fact our next strategy, to demand that City Council sever the gaming expansion section from the Edgewater zoning application in which it is deeply buried, and put gaming expansion in Vancouver to a plebiscite or referendum of some kind;

People want a better vision for Vancouver, one that doesn’t involved addiction, crime, corruption – they want to see a more wholesome international image for our city, and they want better architecture and better urban planning.

Thanks for coming, everyone! Now it’s time to do your part – click the “What Can I Do” tab above, and write to Mayor and Council, and please show up on February 17!

____________

With the exception of the Public Hearings on February 17 at City Hall, this will be the most important event in this fight against the planned downtown mega-casino. PLEASE ATTEND! Prominent Vancouver architect Bing Thom and publisher Peter Ladner will be giving the keynote speeches. Come down early and start the evening off with a dinner in Chinatown or Gastown!

If you plan to attend the public hearings over the casino, or even speak at them, you will find Wednesday’s Forum very informative. The story about the casino is fascinating – come hear it!

To download a PDF of our invitation that you can send out to your networks, click: Vancouver Not Vegas.

PLEASE DOWNLOAD THE LOGO BELOW AND UPLOAD IT TO YOUR FACEBOOK  (and Twitter) as your avatar! Thanks, everyone!

PUBLIC FORUM Feb. 9 on massive casino expansion for Vancouver – come & be heard!

Democracy consists, unfortunately, in citizens showing up to meetings. Sad fact, but true!

Please join us:

Chinese Cultural Centre
in Chinatown
(Stadium-Chinatown skytrain station)
7 pm, Wednesday February 9
(See the Facebook event page)

50 East Pender Street between Carrall and Columbia
(travel instructions to the site, click the link above)

Please come out. You will have fun, meet a mix of people, and feel good about helping us demonstrate our numbers. Bring your ideas and your concerns about the proposed Edgewater mega-casino.

If we approve this mega-casino in Vancouver—if this public land is effectively given away to a sketchy Vegas company on an endless 70 year lease—we will never be able to get rid of it. Is this the image we want for Vancouver, internationally? No other major Canadian city has put a casino in its downtown core, or even close to residential areas. Once we go down this path, we can’t turn around. They don’t just want to put this casino in our downtown, they want to make this the biggest casino in Western Canada, and to have it built by a company that has only ever built truck stop, highway-side, trailer park casinos. The City of Vancouver has not done studies that indicate what the true economic costs of a casino are, but they easily make up a sum in the millions. And for what, $17 million a year? That’s not enough of an inducement for Vancouver – that’s a pittance in the City budget. This is a bad idea. Come out and have your say.

Vancouver will only be forced to make the right decision if the citizens of Vancouver show up and get involved.

Thank you!

Presentation to Vancouver City Council by Sandra Garossino on gaming expansion


Sandra Garossino

Members of our Vancouver Not Vegas! Coalition speak to Vancouver City Council on February 1, arguing against gaming expansion in the City of Vancouver. The opportunity to speak to Council has come as a result of  Councillor Ellen Woodsworth’s motion caling for further examination of gaming practices in British Columbia before the City of Vancouver proceeds with allowing further gaming expansion within its jurisdiction.

Our coalition is speaking in support of Councillor Woodsworth’s motion.

The following presentation to Council is by Sandy Garossino. Sandy Garossino addressed Council as a former Crown prosecutor with specialized experience in gang prosecutions, and as a mother.

(For presentations by Sean Bickerton, Amir Ali Alibhai and Tom Durrie, click here; Sandy’s presentation is posted separately due to its length.)

 

February 1, 2011
Sandra Garossino—Submission to Vancouver City Council

No Public Debate of Gambling Expansion

In 10 short years gambling in BC has come a very long way from the smoky bingo halls and church basements where this all started. We are long overdue for a full debate on the role and limits of gambling in the public realm.

How far does the BC Lottery Corporation intend to expand?

The public has no idea, and neither do municipal councils. We are all forced to wait passively for each new application from corporate interests that do not answer to voters.

The time has come for full public consultations and review of provincial oversight of the gaming industry.

Online Petition

As of today the BC Association for Charitable Gaming has amassed more than 1200 signatures of Vancouverites asking Council to support the non-profit entitlement to gaming proceeds–this will be presented in due course.

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