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South Surrey casino rejected

After two marathon meetings on the topic, Surrey council has jettisoned a plan to build a casino in South Surrey.

Over two nights, those for and against spoke to council for 11 hours.

Those in favour expressed the need for jobs, local entertainment and the necessity to keep local dollars in our economy.

The proposed entertainment complex was to include a 60,000-sq.-ft. gaming area, 200-room hotel and a 27,000-sq.-ft. convention and entertainment centre on an 18-acre parcel of land at 10 Avenue and 168 Street. The casino promised to bring in $3 million in revenue each year for Surrey as the host city.

Those opposed said the $100-million casino complex would bring crime, social problems such as gaming addiction and traffic snarls.

Following Monday's meeting, speakers began anew Friday at 7 p.m. and went until 2 a.m. Saturday. At that point, opponents were out of speakers, and the proponents told council all had been said. The 30 speakers left speaking in favour of the project stood down because of the late hour.

Prior to the vote, Coun. Bruce Hayne spoke first and said economic growth is very important to him, as well as recognizing the need for convention and hotel space.

However, he couldn't bring himself to vote in favour of the project.

"I have heard very clearly… the community is very opposed to this facility," Hayne said. "I really believe this facility is in the wrong location."

Coun. Linda Hepner said she recognized there are significant issues around problem gamblers. "I do believe that a transfer from Newton to this site is more palatable."

Coun. Judy Villeneuve she wouldn't be able to support the project.

"I think the people who have raised the social issues deserve a vote on this council," Villenveuve said.

Coun. Mary Martin said she didn't support the rezoning to casino use in 2010 – "and nothing has been said to change my mind in the last couple of nights."

Coun. Barbara Steele, svoting in favor of the project, said she believes the South Surrey site is a good location, and noted Surrey needs more convention space. She also thinks the money Surrey would receive as host municipality is significant.

"Three million dollars annually is nothing to sneeze at," Steele said.

Coun. Tom Gill said it's impossible not to weigh in the amount of jobs promised as part of the development, as well as the host fee and property taxes, which he estimated would top $4 million annually.

"I think we've done a good job of reviewing it, even though we have a differentiation on council, certainly I would be in favour of this application," Gill said.

Coun. Marvin Hunt did not speak but has always been opposed to any gaming application before council.

That left council at a 4-4 tie, and Mayor Dianne Watts with the swing vote.

"When I look at the components of this application, do we need them? Absolutely," What said. "We need a hotel, we need a theatre, we need restaurants – and it's all predicated on a casino."

"I was prepared to swallow that, even though I don't want a casino, because those were elements that we needed."

She said she was surprised to see the number of people that turned out to the hearings and the passion they brought with them.

"Fundamentally, is it the right thing to do, to take it from one community and force it into another that doesn't want it?" Watts asked. "The answer to that question is no."

And with that, the proposal for a casino in South Surrey was officially dead.

Opponents applaud

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