Column: Rolling the dice on casino location

The rural area where the planned South Surrey casino is unsuitable for the project

A proposal for a casino in a rural area of South Surrey is puzzling, but it seems to have a fair bit of support from the business community.

The casino, convention centre and entertainment complex is proposed for a 25-acre rural property at 10 Avenue and 168 Street. It is not near other urban land. It would be part of a 200-room hotel complex. The operator would be Gateway Casinos, which operates the existing Cascades Casino in Langley City.

There is an existing hotel across Highway 99, and other business and urban residential areas not far away, but that area of South Surrey is rural. Not too long ago, there were several active agricultural operations in that area, historically known as South Meridian.

If South Surrey is to have a casino, and there may well be enough business there for one, it should be in an urban area, on a major arterial road and within walking distance of a transit route. This project does not meet any of those criteria.

This casino is planning to move the existing licence from a casino in Newton, which Gateway took over after council approved expansion by a 5-4 vote. Council members aren’t enthusiastic about the Newton casino, situated in an older mall, but several love the idea of it moving to South Surrey.

Gateway says the biggest demand in the Surrey area is for an entertainment centre, as there is little entertainment available in the area.

While I take issue with that sweeping statement, given the many entertainment opportunities in Surrey and White Rock, it is true that the type of acts that most casinos offer rarely come to Surrey. Many of them come to the three casinos just across the border, or to River Rock in Richmond or the Boulevard Casino in Coquitlam, which are the two best entertainment facilities among Lower Mainland casinos.

If there is that level of demand, a casino and entertainment complex makes sense – but in the right location.

At one time, Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce was opposed to the casino proposal, stating that it would cannibalize the existing  Fraser Downs facility. That is a legitimate concern, but BC Lottery Corporation has assured Cloverdale business people that the two casinos can co-exist.

“All we’re concerned with is that Fraser Downs is the primary casino in Surrey, and they have assured us that it will be equal in size to the other one – which means it will be equal in profits,” said Brian Young, president of the Cloverdale chamber, in July.

BCLC does say that the two will likely attract a different audience, which is true. Those wishing to gamble on horse racing and visit a casino will go to Fraser Downs, while those seeking out more of an entertainment venue mixed with gambling would head to South Surrey – theoretically. A large convention centre is an advantage, and will be well-utilized.

However, the casino business in the Lower Mainland is close to saturation point, in my view. Gambling seems to have leveled off at many casinos and revenues to cities, which is the prime reason most councils will agree to host a casino, have evened off.

The South Surrey location is also very close to the border and not far from U.S. casinos, which do attract a lot of Canadian gamblers. Whether it can keep more of them on this side of the line is debatable. Can they attract enough new gamblers to help boost the take that Surrey will receive? That is also questionable.

Obviously, no proponent is going to build a facility that isn’t likely to turn a profit. However, it appears that the two main casino companies in B.C. – Gateway and Great Canadian – want to keep building more of them.

If there is a market for more casinos in Surrey, fine. But a new casino, entertainment centre and hotel needs to be located in an appropriate area.

It will be interesting to follow this debate as it continues, through public meetings and other discussion.

Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Crews work to clear the aftermath of a three-vehicle collision that occurred Wednesday morning (Jan. 20, 2021) at the intersection of 16 Avenue and 156 Street. (Tracy Holmes photo)
Three-vehicle collision in South Surrey

Extensive front-end damage caused in morning crash

New United States Vice President Kamala Harris (left) and President Joe Biden (right) are sworn in at U.S. inauguration ceremonies Wednesday morning in Washington, D.C.. (Saul Loeb/Pool photos via AP)
Surrey Board of Trade highlights innovation, policy changes as new U.S. president sworn in

COVID-19, border re-opening among issues affecting city, SBOT says

An example of a Surrey Police cruiser, showcased at Mayor Doug McCallum’s State of the City Address at Civic Hotel in May of 2019. (File photo: Amy Reid)
OUR VIEW: Surrey Police Service continues to draw from RCMP well

Again, it flies in the face of mayor’s election campaign pitch that Surrey needs a police force whose ranks live in this city

The White Birch proposal for a six-storey rental-only building for 1485 Fir St. (Contributed rendering)
Majority voice support for 80-unit rental redevelopment in White Rock

Resident fearful of being priced out of the city, council told at public hearing

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
One in five tests in Fernie area coming back positive: doctor

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Ralliers gather in front of the Cityviews Village apartment building in Maple Ridge to protest attempts to evict low-income tenants by the building owner. (Ronan O’Doherty - The News)
Tenants protest pressure tactics by new landlord at Maple Ridge apartment building

Protest held in front of Cityviews Village on 223 St. Tuesday to rally against low-income evictions

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Throughout December, RCMP conducted CounterAttack road checks as police worked to keep roads free of impaired drivers. (BLACK PRESS file photo)
From the “You can’t make this stuff up” file – stories from the BC CounterAttack campaign

Amusing, yes, but a reminder impaired driving affects ability to drive and to make good decisions

Snow is forecasted to appear in parts of Metro Vancouver this weekend. (Black Press Media files)
Snow forecasted for parts of Lower Mainland this weekend

Environment Canada is predicting flurries and snow from Saturday to Monday evening

(Thesendboys/Instagram)
Video of man doing backflip off Vancouver bridge draws police condemnation

Group says in Instagram story that they ‘don’t do it for the clout’

A Langley woman said she was shaken by the angry encounter. (Google Maps)
Woman shaken after belligerent encounter with unmasked man in Langley store

A man angry about vaccines berated a fellow shopper, a witness said

Most Read