Tag Archives: Vancouver

Report: Michael Graydon found to be in conflict of interest

Michael Graydon BCLC

Vancouver Not Vegas is available for media interviews in response to the BC government’s report on conflict of interest in the case of Michael Graydon’s move from the BC Lottery Corp to Paragon Gaming.

We will be issuing a full statement tomorrow, July 11.

TEXT MEDIA REQUESTS TO: 778-231-5230

Please see the story in the Vancouver Sun:  Former BC Lottery Corporation CEO in conflict when he took private job, review finds

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

Culture attracts far greater tourism than gambling

This graph gives a sense of the low tourism value of casinos as compared to arts and culture activities in cities. This is a well known fact, yet British Columbia has failed to develop the type of competent cultural economic plan or tourism economic plan that we see in other provinces. BC’s wholesale slashing of arts investment (unique in Canada) and its destruction of Tourism BC indicate to us that the government lacks a plan. The reliance upon gambling expansion is not just lazy, it’s economically unwise. It’s likely that given the combination of global troubles and online gambling the bottom will fall out of casino establishment gambling profits. In addition, cultural tourists generally come from a higher economic bracket, are more educated, and spend much more money at their destination.

Given these facts, it ought to become more obvious to Vancouver and the whole of BC why arts organizations, who were illegally made ineligible for BC gaming grants in 2009, banded together to fight the Edgewater mega-casino proposed for downtown Vancouver. Why are the tourism and arts sectors not being adequately consulted on a strategy and adequately subsidized as all other sectors are? They could bring billions into the Vancouver and BC economies. Why does the BC government refuse to understand, the way Ontario and Quebec do, that arts are a key factor in an economic plan? Both have state gambling (yet far better regulated than in BC) but they offset this with financially smart stimulus to arts and culture. It’s time for BC to get it together.

One must also add that arts and culture are part of a green economy, and bring no downside with them. With gambling however, there are increasingly strong stats that show its costs outweighing its profits, possibly 3 to 1. We heard this from many gambling experts during the hearings at Vancouver City Hall.

For more information on the economic benefits of arts and culture investment and cultural tourism, see post at Stop BC Arts Cuts.

Mani Amar: A Reckless Proposal & Profiteering For Criminals

A Reckless Proposal & Profiteering For Criminals
By Mani Amar

The amount of gang activity that occurs in Vancouver, our small but beautiful major city, rivals massive metropolitan areas across North America. Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, & Chicago are well known throughout the world for gang activity, but another city has taken precedence on this list. Our city.

Vancouver generates billions of tax free dollars through its marijuana trade industry every year. Vancouver is geographically destined to be a major drug distribution hub. But instead of using resources to tackle such a drug issue, we are providing criminals with another reason to operate. Gambling.

Gambling, along with prohibited narcotics, alcohol, and prostitution have been historically the favourite industries for gangs to operate within. Gambling has an ominous aura; it attracts addictive personality peoples, it attracts organized crime, and it attracts violence. Gambling generates other dangerous criminal industries such as loan sharking and money laundering.

For a city that has been ravaged by violent crimes, a city with a drug industry with worldwide distribution, and a city with law enforcement resources stretched very thin, to even consider a mega casino expansion in a central location of the city is not only reckless, but simply stupid.

The very notion of PavCo bringing this proposal to Vancouver is based solely on greed. They do not care for our city, they do not care for our safety. They simply care about their own financial gain.

They bombard us with statistics of money, telling us that Vancouver will profit dearly from tax dollars and job creation. But they neglect to mention that lives will be damaged, government resources will be stretched further, our valuable tax dollars and the valuable tax dollars of our future generations will be used to salvage the socioeconomic downturn of our once beautiful, and more importantly, safe city.

I urge the council to consider the negative effects of this casino expansion. Consider all that will be lost, for this generation and our future.

This is nothing more than a reckless proposal and opportunity of profiteering for criminals. This is simply a situation where the cons outweigh the pros.

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!

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


 

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.