Delta’s casino is now ready to move forward, after council gave it fourth and final reading Monday night (July 30).
“I know that there are … very passionate residents that do not support this casino application. I also know there are many, many people who support the casino application for what it will bring to Delta,” Counc. Sylvia Bishop said.
“I’m satisfied that the benefits that will come to Delta outweigh the concerns that were expressed.”
The Gateway Casino and Entertainment Ltd. proposal, which includes a casino, hotel and several restaurants on the site of the current Town & Country Inn, was approved 4-2, with Mayor Lois Jackson and councillors Bruce McDonald, Robert Campbell and Bishop in favour. Councillors Heather King and Jeannie Kanakos were opposed.
“There’s no question that the most heartfelt positions that came forward were from people who had stories of … what gaming had done to their families,” McDonald said, referring back to the public hearing in May. But, he noted, when a company wants to invest $75 million and bring 700 jobs to the community, it’s hard to turn your back on it.
“I do understand that many people who, for very valid reasons, are opposed to gaming,” he continued. “But I don’t know a pub in Delta that isn’t a mini casino.”
Kanakos and King were clear in their opposition to the project — they voted against it at third reading — and brought forward more questions and concerns during Monday’s meeting.
At second reading, Delta had a requirement that BCLC officially approve the casino before council gave it fourth reading.
However, in the package provided to council by staff, a letter from BCLC vice-president Brad Desmarais said the lottery corporation could not give final approval until Delta council gave fourth reading, although it noted BCLC was supportive of the facility in general.
“It’s a little bit of a chicken and the egg,” Delta director of community planning and development Marcy Sangret explained at council on Monday. “Basically, we’re asking council to consider whether they feel that letter from Mr. Desmarais is satisfactory.”
King and Kanakos were skeptical about using the letter to fulfill Delta’s requirement.
“I’m going to vote in opposition for my concerns that I have with providing support for fourth reading when we really don’t have that final condition from BCLC,” King said.
McDonald, Campbell, Bishop and Jackson did not voice those same qualms.
Kanakos and King also brought forward concerns about Delta’s approach to consulting with local First Nations, saying the city needed to respect First Nations’ traditional territory, as well as their current lands.
The result of that discussion was that Semiahmoo First Nation was included in the list of local governments that would get courtesy letters following fourth reading. Kanakos was not successful in having the word “courtesy” removed from those letters.
Throughout the application process, the casino drew heavy opposition from residents with concerns about traffic, gambling addiction and money laundering. Some of those issues were discussed during Monday’s council meeting.
Talk about the indoor tennis facility located on the Town and Country grounds, although prominent at the public hearing, was largely absent from Monday night’s council meeting.
Kanakos noted that money laundering and the Peter German report were never fully brought up during council’s discussion of the proposal.
“We really did not have the meat of the matter in terms of understanding the implications from a public safety perspective,” she said. That, along with how quickly she felt the proposal moved forward, made her feel that the “process has been rushed and flawed.”
“I really feel that Delta is vulnerable and we shouldn’t even consider putting in a casino now,” she said. “This just doesn’t fit our brand.”
Kanakos also put forward a notice of motion, to be discussed at council’s next meeting on Aug. 13, that suggests Delta ask the province to put a hold on the development of future casinos until the Peter German report is fully implemented. The motion was seconded by King.
In response, Mayor Lois Jackson said council should have more faith.
“We should have some faith in not only the German report being incorporated, but also in our own police department,” she said.
A number of residents who were opposed to the casino were present for the fourth reading of the proposal, including some who had created badges that read “casiNO” and wore them to the public hearing.
Throughout Monday night’s discussion, some of the residents made comments under their breath about council’s decisions and occasionally called out “shame” in a response to councillors’ statements.
Now that the proposal has passed fourth reading, the city will send out letters informing BCLC, the Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch of the Ministry of Finance and the City of Richmond that the casino has been approved. Delta will also send letters to the City of Surrey, Tsawwassen First Nation, the Musqueam Indian Band and the Semiahmoo First Nation as a courtesy.
Richmond has been opposed to the casino proposal from the start. The City of Delta’s letter will provide Richmond with an opportunity to file an objection to the project with the BLCL and initiate a dispute process.
If a dispute is filed, then Delta and Richmond would enter into a non-binding resolution process to address any issues raised in the objection and determine the appropriate compensation to be paid by Delta (if any) for significant costs that Richmond shows it would incur as a result of the new casino.
The dispute could also result in the BCLC deciding not to sign off on the project. Although the BCLC is supportive of Gateway’s casino proposal, it cannot make a final decision on the gaming facility until after Delta sends out the letter announcing the city’s approval.
Even if an objection is not filed, Delta and Gateway will still need to await BCLC’s final approval and follow the lottery corporation’s next steps in moving forward.