Newton Bingo Country at 7093 King George Boulevard.

Newton Bingo Country at 7093 King George Boulevard.

Surrey reviewing Newton casino plan

Legal department is examining the possibility of city backing out of gaming agreement.

Surrey is exploring the ramifications of asking the province not to grant a gaming licence to a Newton casino, a privilege won in a hard-fought battle two years ago.

Several councillors are upset after granting rezoning in 2009 for Boardwalk Gaming, which promised to renovate Newton Bingo Country at 7093 King George Boulevard. It was a highly contentious issue, but council endorsed the plan on a five-four vote in part because of a promise of $25 million in upgrades to the run-down property.

However, Boardwalk has since sold the property to Gateway Casino and Entertainment Ltd., and with that sale went any promises of improvement to the property.

Coun. Linda Hepner told The Leader last month if a vote were held today on the project, she wouldn’t support it.

Coun. Bob Bose challenged his colleagues to take action on the issue.

He moved that Surrey “serve notice” to the B.C. Lottery Corporation to withdraw from the Host Financial Assistance Agreement with respect to the Boardwalk Gaming casino agreement.

Council referred the matter to the city’s legal department for advice.

“I’m taking the position that this is matter of public interest, and I’m fighting to have the whole thing rescinded,” Bose said Tuesday. “This is between Surrey and the (BC) Lottery Corporation.”

Coun. Barinder Rasode was happy to see Bose’s motion on Monday and hopes the city can follow through with it.

She notes when the rezoning was approved three years ago, not-for-profit groups which rely on gaming funds were pitted against the community. Now that gaming funds have dried up, she says the feelings in the community are overwhelmingly opposed to the casino.

“Everybody is very clear that we don’t need to have this gaming facility in the heart of Newton,” Rasode said Wednesday.

Resident Pat Cecchetto was one of the many lobbying for the project in 2009, and says there’s now way she’d speak in favour of the project now. She feels bad for the residents of Newton, who, she says, don’t need a casino in their midst.

“I do believe they are the victims of this,” Cecchetto said, adding she wishes she could go back in time and take back her support.

“I’m totally sorry,” Cecchetto said. “I think it was wrong.”

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