EDITORIAL: Hyperbole hampers casino discussion

The Gateway casino/entertainment complex proposal for South Surrey is awash in such a sea of hyperbole, it makes it hard to evaluate the project on its own merits.

Opponents have referred to it as a “mega-casino” – a term picked up and parroted indiscriminately by some in the Vancouver media – when the casino is hardly the largest part of the hotel/theatre/convention project.

By the same token, Gateway’s strategy of late has been to abandon any reference to a casino, instead referring to it solely as “an entertainment complex.”

Additionally, Gateway has backed away from a $6-million figure thrown around early in the support campaign – and indeed in Gateway’s own support forms it gathered to submit to the city – as theoretically Surrey’s potential annual portion of gaming revenues from the project.

Latterly, Gateway has taken care to emphasize the $6 million to Surrey touted as a benefit of the project actually includes $2.9 million already received annually from the nearby Fraser Downs casino – which is not even operated by Gateway.

It’s also debatable whether Gateway acted in its own best interests in its approach to the Dec. 10 Surrey council land-use meeting on the project.

How did they think the optics of bringing charter busloads of employees and others in support of the project  – all sporting blue shirts emblazoned with Gateway logos, a large “yes” and the legend “More Entertainment = Strong Surrey” – would play to residents?

Surrey council members should be aware that to many, such tactics don’t exactly suggest grass-roots support.  Instead they smack of the kind of bully-boy politics – all too common in 2012 – in which the biggest budget and the loudest voices trump any dissent.

None of which is to say that the casino or entertainment complex – call it what you will – is either all a good idea or a bad idea.

We are yet to be persuaded unconditionally in either direction – and we hope that’s still the case with Surrey council members, as they listen to public feedback and deliberate based on their own data.

But it would be appreciated if the process could be minus any more smoke-and-mirrors numbers games or tacky demonstrations that seem determined to make Surrey seem a far smaller town than its physical dimensions.

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