Tag Archives: City Council

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!

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

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.

Proposed expanded Edgewater Casino thinks it can compete with Singapore for big gamblers from China?

“Destination casino” – that’s how the BC provincial government and Vegas gambling corporation Paragon Gaming plan have designated the proposed new Edgewater complex. What does this mean? It means that the casino complex intends to reach its projected revenues, the casino would have to attract significant gambling tourism, not just locals. In the case of the Edgewater Casino, a large fraction of the the targeted market is supposedly wealthy gamblers from China. There are a number of troubling issues associated with destination casinos, and we’ll deal with those at the end, but the first question we are asking here is this: has the BC government really thought out whether this “destination casino” can really do what it says it can and attract these gamblers? Because it’s very unlikely that it can deliver. Consider just one of many competing mega-casinos:

Singapore, which is a world leader in planning and which very carefully designed its casino industry to market almost exclusively to tourists and very wealthy clientele;

Singapore, which has almost the lowest crime rate in the world, strict and well-funded policing and zero tolerance for gang activity;

Singapore, which wants the Asian/Chinese high-roller gambling dollars that we naively think we can compete with them for;

Singapore,which is only a short, low-cost flight away from Hong Kong or China.

And when you get to Singapore, you get this:

Do BC and Vancouver really think we are going to induce the Chinese big spender to come halfway around the world to be impressed by this?:

Now, let’s look at other issues associated with mega-casinos.

What we sometimes hear from our elected public officials on this topic goes like this: “oh, the new casino isn’t in a residential area, and lots of cities have them.”

Wrong.

Ask the False Creek Residents Association whether or not they agree that this is not a residential area! And this district is extremely close to both Yaletown (2 minute walk away) and Gastown, not to mention Strathcona, only a 10 minute walk away—and  with the Prior/Venables artery, gamblers and loan sharks will be passing right through the neighbourhood daily.

Furthermore, do other cities really put mega-casinos in their downtown core?

No, they don’t. Chicago, for example. Their “downtown” casino? It’s 20 minutes outside of Chicago downtown, very like our current River Rock Casino in Richmond. Singapore’s casinos charge $80 for locals to enter, and they have one at their huge major resort downtown that is very far from any residential area. The other is on an island 10 miles from the city. Everything is strictly designed for tourism, not local gambling.

Montreal’s casino is on the Expo island–again away from the city residential heart, as is the casino in Edmonton. NO cities except declining poverty traps like Detroit have allowed this.

This is not normal urban planning. We are not even approaching the frontier of “urban planning” here. After the decades and tens of millions of dollars that have gone into making Vancouver the most livable city in the world, are twe are going to plop Las Vegas into it? And for what? So that our rich and corporations can have the lowest taxes anywhere? And on that topic, what has that done for us lately? Where are the waves of major corporate head offices coming our way because of the low taxes? Non-existent.

Vancouver! You—City Council as well as Vancouver citizens— must stand up and defy the province on this one.

So you think the stadium lands are BC gov’t property & it can do whatever it likes with them? Not true!

Something we keep hearing in this fight against the massive expansion of the Edgewater Casino is that “it’s on BC government-owned land, so the City of Vancouver can’t stop it.”

Not true. Very much not true.

PavCo (short for BC Pavilion Corporation), the BC government’s crown corporation, is not free to do anything it likes. It is subject to Vancouver city processes and regulations like everyone else. It must go through the rezoning application process for the casino (which is currently much smaller and more hidden away) and it must go through the application process for gaming expansion in Vancouver city limits.

Please see the Memorandum of Agreement on Gaming Policy Between: The Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) and The Government of British Columbia (the Province).

It’s interesting reading.

In it, the province affirms municipal jurisdiction over land use and gaming licenses, and explicitly agrees to abide by local government decisions.

This massive casino expansion smack in the middle of our downtown is not a done deal, and it must not be rubber-stamped by City Councl just because the City is being bullied by the Province. If you want to learn more about why the City of Vancouver is having trouble saying no to the province, read on or look at this excellent series of investigative articles on the Edgewater expansion by the Vancouver Observer.

The real relationship between the stadium roof and the proposed mega-casino?

IMG_7388 Photo: Dennis Tsang To learn more about the actual relationship between the stadium roof and the mega-casino, read this series of articles in the Vancouver Observer. Paragon, a Vegas casino company, was awarded the contract to build and operate the mega-casino in a very iffy bid process. It was awarded the contract by BC Pavilion Corp—a crown corporation known as PavCo which owns the land next between BC Place and the Cambie bridge. See here. Rumour has it that that Paragon told BC Liberal minister Kevin Krueger last year that without a retractable roof on the stadium, Paragon would refuse to build the mega-casino because supposedly without the draw of a retractable stadium roof, the stadium wouldn’t attract enough clientele to the casino. As for the mega-casino, this is a process that has been occurred very much under the radar of most Vancouverites who are unaware of what’s coming: a new development three times the size of the original Edgewater Casino currently located in an inconspicious spot on the other side of the stadium. City Hall has been strangely silent on the issue of this massive gambling expansion, considering that the BC government application to the city to expand gambling within our city limits will soon be before Council.

Stadium roof scandal?

Some are saying that the retractable roof, one of the most expensive in the world, will cost twice  the public estimate, and apparently engineers are not even sure that the underlying structure will support the roof in all conditions.  At the very least, the City must get a full independent seismic assessment before granting the rezoning. And that’s not the only thing that City Council should be demanding of the provincial government before it negotiates further with them. Before Vancouver considers the government’s applications to expand gaming in Vancouver and to rezone the new casino site for a mega-development, the City needs to get the provincial government’s assurance that it will actually meet its legal obligations to hand over 1/3 of gaming revenues to BC’s charities and non-profits. (If the BC govt had honoured their 1999 Memorandum of Agreement, a legal document, they would have paid BC’s crucial charities and non-profits $1.3 bn more than they did; that amount is now in arrears). Both the City and Minister Coleman need to start coming clean about these developments.

Dear Vancouver, do you really want a mega-casino in your downtown core?

Buck and winnie (and chip)

The current Edgewater Casino is quietly slated for  a location move and then a massive expansion in our downtown core, right near the BC Place Stadium. This could happen within a matter of weeks. It will put the casino adjacent to all of the high-end dense living of False Creek and Yaletown, not to mention adjacent to the Downtown Eastside, already plagued by crime and addictions.

Massive casinos, which are generally not found in the downtown cores of other North American cities, other than Vegas, attract endless undesirable social problems: crime, loan sharks, addiction. They are not socially palatable. Nor will this mega-casino complex be architecturally palatable – it will be designed and built by Vegas. It’s not even going out to architectural competition – its design has already been proposed and it’s hideous. We have already had an ugly, expensive and impractical stadium roof foisted upon us by the BC Liberals government; now we will be subjected to this massive gambling expansion unless we speak up. The province has bullied Vancouver enough. City Hall, start standing up to the bullies! What cards are they holding that you fold so easily?

Write to the mayor and city council! Tell them how you feel about this scheme which is very quickly and very quietly being pushed through City Hall by the BC provincial government.

Also note: gambling expansion has been pushed throughout BC with the excuse that it pays for our crucial non-profit and charity sectors. Despite laws legislating this, it has never been done. Money from the casinos is being used to fill in the gap left by the government’s own economic policies.

Please be heard!

Don’t let them gamble Vancouver’s liveability away.

Thank you.

What’s the Real Story Behind Edgewater?

If you scratch the surface of the Edgewater mega-casino development, you’ll hit social housing in about 10 seconds.

Vision Vancouver is expected to deliver on new social housing units for Vancouver, and tick tick tick goes the clock on their mandate. To fulfill their promise on social housing, the city needs the province to step up with the money it committed last May: $225M IN HOUSING INVESTMENTS TO CREATE 1,006 NEW HOMES

But something seems to be happening with that money. Or rather, nothing seems to be happening.

Rumours are that the province’s social housing money is taking the slow boat across Georgia Strait from Victoria, and suddenly everything’s gone quiet.

Too quiet.

At the same time, PavCo (aka the BC Liberal government) is applying to City Council to re-zone BC Place Stadium to accommodate construction of the massive Las Vegas-run mega-casino.

Coincidence?

Vancouverites should be asking–what’s the real relationship between the province’s commitment of money for social housing and the expansion of gambling in Vancouver?

Is Vancouver City Council expected to approve a huge Las Vegas-style mega-casino for downtown if it wants to get those social housing units built for Vancouver’s homeless?