Tag Archives: Vancouver City Council

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.
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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! Co-founder Launches Petition to Halt Casino Move to BC Place

Vancouver Not Vegas Co-Founder Lindsay Brown has filled a petition in BC Supreme Court seeking to overturn the decision by Vancouver City Council approving the relocation of Edgewater Casino to BC Place Stadium.

“To this day the people of Vancouver still have no idea of what is being planned for the casino development on the BC Place Stadium site, yet Council has essentially written Paragon and PavCo a blank cheque by approving the relocation,” says Vancouver Not Vegas co-founder Lindsay Brown.” Once again plans are being made behind closed doors at City Hall, apparently to be dropped on the public when it’s too late for us to have a voice, but this time Council has granted its approval in advance. The BC Place site is a Vancouver landmark affecting thousands of residents, and we don’t know what’s happening there. We need to be part of the discussion this time around – if there is a “this time around.” ”

“Council consistently treated this application as a re-zoning matter, and has not recognized the requirements of provincial legislation governing decisions around gaming licenses,” adds retired justice Ian Pitfield, a coalition supporter. “The community was not provided with any particulars of the relocation proposal. It was only told about an expansion.”

During the public hearings in the spring of 2011, Paragon Gaming, the owners of Edgewater Casino, strongly stated that relocation without an expansion of their license was not an acceptable solution, and offered no amended plan for the public or Council to review. Council voted to approve only the relocation of the Edgewater Casino against the applicant’s wishes and without public consultation respecting any revisions. The City has not complied with the Gaming Control Act and Regulations.

________________________________

Note: Letters sent from Ian Pitfield to City Hall and to the Minister responsible for Gaming beginning in late May 2011 have remained unanswered or have elicited only uninformative replies.

Vancouver Not Vegas now awaits a response from City Council regarding our petition. We are very pleased by Vision Vancouver/COPE’s promise of a moratorium on gaming expansion in Vancouver, however the question of PavCo’s intentions for the BC Place Stadium site remains urgent.

Dr. Fred Bass, MD, Former Vancouver City Councillor, opposes casino expansion

Address to Council by Dr. Fred Bass, Former Vancouver City Councillor, MD, DSc, Consultant in Preventive Medicine. Among his other distinctions Dr. Bass holds a graduate degree from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Mr Mayor and Council,

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

My trade is that of epidemiologist and tobacco addiction specialist. Epidemiology is the study of the determinants of health and illness in populations. My training in this area was at Harvard and Johns Hopkins.

I am wearing an Alligator Hat today that was given to me by smokers who appreciated learning that what controls their smoking behavior was not their thinking brain but their primitive—amphibian, Alligator Brain—the same part of the brain that controls problem gambling.

One of you asked the first evening, “What proportion of gambling money is spent by problem gamblers?”

That was a brilliant question. As the movie said, “Follow the money!” The lottery folks pleaded ignorance in their response.

The central issue here is not:
“What proportion of people are problem gamblers?”
but
“What proportion of dollars gambled are problem dollars?”

I will use a Solicitor General’s report of March 2003 to answer that question.

In response to “How much do you spend on gambling in an average month?”, the survey respondents told us that
20% spend less than $1 a month
45% spend $1-$10 a month
22% spend $11-$49 a month
6% spend $50-$99 a month
3% spend $100 to $199 a month and another
3% spend $200 or more

With the modest assumption that the $200 or more group spend $300 per month, we can answer the question what proportion of $ gambled comes from what proportion of the population.

The answer is that a bit over 50% ($1350 of $2695) of the money gambled came from 6% of those who gambled, which is 4.5% of the total population.

Coincidentally, the prevalence of problem gambling that year (2002) was estimated to be 4.6% of the total population.

This study also found that casino gamblers had a significantly higher proportion of problem gamblers 8.8% instead of 4.6% overall average. That’s almost twice the average prevalence.
Casinos appear to attract and/or produce problem gamblers.

In this room 25 years ago, when I was advocating for smoke-free pubs and restaurants, many union employees in the hospitality industry appeared as delegations to argue that smoke-free by-laws would ruin their jobs and their lives. You have heard similar statements from many casino employees.

Some strong words now: Like the tobacco industry, the casino industry is a parasitic industry. Gambling is not sustainable: witness their return, asking for gambling expansion just five years after their previous injection of a casino.

I believe the public, for the most part, has intuitively recognized that expanding slots from 600 to 1500 and gaming tables from 75 to 150 would not be good for this city.

My advice for those seeking re-election this fall is to reject expansion of the casino.

Respectfully,

Frederic Bass, MD, DSc

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.

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.

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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Our coalition’s presentations to Vancouver City Council on gambling expansion, February 1

Today several members of our Vancouver Not Vegas! Coalition are speaking to Vancouver City Council on the topic of general gaming expansion in the City of Vancouver. The opportunity to speak to Council has come as a result of a motion by Councillor Ellen Woodsworth, calling 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.

For presentations by Amir Alibhai, Sean Bickerton and Tom Durrie, read on. For a longer presentation by Sandy Garossino, click here.


Amir Ali Alibhai

January 31, 2011
Dear Mayor and Council:

The Alliance for Arts and Culture encourages Mayor and Council to adopt the
motion, moved by Councillors Woodsworth and Cadman regarding Casino
Development in our City. We have also been asked to speak on behalf of the
BC Association for Charitable Gaming (BCACG), which has submitted a written
submission. Together our organizations represent over 6,500 member
organizations and individuals. Motion B.6 addresses growing concerns in
this City and Province that Gaming has been expanded in an unchecked manner
and operates in a non-transparent and potentially conflicted way. The huge
revenues generated through this aggressive expansion have been attained on
the backs of charities, non-profits, municipalities and communities across
this province. In spite of this increase in revenues, the amount of funds
provided to charities and non-profits has decreased! We estimate that the
recent loss of funds to Metro Vancouver arts and cultural organizations will
be about $4 Million annually!

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Schedule of Edgewater Casino-related events: February

February is THE month for letting City Hall know how you feel about the Edgewater mega-casino in Vancouver. 

The public hearings begin at City Hall on February 17. It is imperative that citizens show up to events – particularly the two events in darker red below – and write letters!

February 1, City Hall. Please come! Citizens can speak to Councillor Ellen Woodsworth’s motion to suspend the Edgewater rezoning/expansion application until the BC government lives up to its obligations to fund charities. PLEASE SHOW UP! Even if it’s only to sit in the gallery. The agenda for Feb.1 is here. The motion is last in the morning session so it will be late-ish. You can watch online to see how quickly the morning’s agenda is going.

February 8, City Hall’s information meeting. Location TBA, watch this space. City staff will present their Edgewater plans, and it’s likely that BC gov’t people, David Podmore of PavCo (BC Pavilion Co., the crown corp dealing with the stadium and other BC gov’t owned lands), Paragon and BC Lottery Corp people will be there, along with the CAW Union (Canadian Auto Workers union would have the contract for the casino jobs). It’s worth having citizens show up as well, to make their feelings known.

February 9, Public Forum , 7 pm WE NEED ALL CONCERNED VANCOUVER CITIZENS TO SHOW UP. The press will be there, and this will send a message to City Hall that Vancouverites have opinions about this casino plan. Event is organized by the Vancouver Not Vegas! Coalition (that’s us) at the Chinese Cultural Centre 50 E. Pender Street (two blocks W. of Main) Chinatown, Vancouver Stadium-Chinatown Skytrain Station February 10, Vancouver Board of Trade This is a registration-only event hosted by David Podmore of PavCo and Scott Menke of Paragon Gaming The Board of Trade is pro-casino. As is Tourism Vancouver, Concord, etc. They will all be in attendance.

February 17, Public Hearing on Edgewater Casino expansion and rezoning Sign up to speak at this! Or just come – we must fill the gallery. Sign-up info to come. City Hall Cambie Street & 12th Avenue, Vancouver

WHAT CAN YOU DO? 1. If we are going to defeat this casino, you must come out to these events! We need numbers. And sign up to speak at City Council on the 17th. 2. Crucial: everyone must write a letter. It takes less than 5 mins; we’ve done the work for you. 3.  Sign the BCACG’s petition. It seems that City Council may be looking for a way to avoid this casino, and only enormous public involvement will give them the power to say no to this plan. Vancouverites should be able to decide what sort of city they want.

Councillor Ellen Woodsworth’s Motion against Casino Expansion

UPDATE: Councillor Woodsworth’s motion to Vancouver City Council was passed! The motion essentially calls for a postponement of gaming expansion in Vancouver until there’s been proper inquiry into gambling irregularities and cuts to charities, all of which have an impact on the City of Vancouver. The motion was finally presented to City Council at about 11 pm on Tuesday, January 18 in the Vancouver City Council chambers. After members of our coalition and others spoke in support of the motion, Coun. Woodsworth’s motion passed nearly unanimously.

**Please note that Woodsworth’s motion was amended slightly before being passed; the finalized motion is below.**

Note: When this motion was first introduced into Council in mid-January, many councillors did speak out against gambling or asked pointed questions. Some felt this marks a genuine change of heart in Vision and beyond; others claim it was merely political theatre on the part of Council, aimed at PavCo and Paragon Gaming as a way of extracting more concessions from them. Time will tell but two things are clear; strong public citizen opposition will be necessary if we are going to defeat this casino expansion; and that with that strong opposition, we can defeat this casino expansion.

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