A proposal for a $100-million destination casino

A proposal for a $100-million destination casino

Rolling the dice

Readers write in about a proposal for a $100-million destination casino, hotel and convention centre in South Surrey.


As a longtime South Surrey resident, I’ve learned more about development than I ever needed or wanted to learn.

There is one phrase I’ve heard each time that sets alarm bells ringing in my head: “Why should all the money go to Langley?” When I hear this, I know I’m being sold out.

I will never see any of the money in question – nor will my neighbours, nor will local businesses. The money will go in someone’s pocket, and the rest of us will be left to pay, in multiple ways, for the new development.

The answer has to be “yes.” Let the money from the new casino go to Langley, or Richmond, or Newton or wherever.

Ron Chisholm, Surrey

• • •

If Surrey council was serious and smart about improving Surrey, they would insist that Gateway Casinos clean up the mess on the North Surrey waterfront for their new casino, rather than place it in pastoral farmland next to residential development in South Surrey.

Paul Griffin, Surrey

• • •

At first I was opposed to the plans for a casino in South Surrey, where the majority of gamblers will lose their money, but I now enthusiastically applaud the idea.

My opinion changed when I saw that the casino will be graced with a performance theatre, restaurants and a hotel. How wonderful, and best of all, this world-class facility will feed funds into the coffers of local municipalities, which means my annual tax bill will drop accordingly. That makes it a capital idea.

But let’s not stop at a casino. While we’re at it, let’s build a fully licensed brothel. I am sure South Surrey – and especially White Rock, with its thousands of single adults – presents a severely underserved market for this type of service.

We can make it palatable to families by gracing it with a licensed daycare and a world-class recreation centre, with a children’s playground, indoor waterslides and a wave pool.

This facility can feed additional dollars into the coffers of local municipalities, which will once again reduce my property taxes and promote the betterment of humanity.

Robert Ramsay, Surrey

• • •

BC Lottery Corporation was represented by a senior executive at Wednesday’s meeting to discuss the proposed casino in South Surrey.

In response to a question about the relationship between BCLC and casino operators, the executive said it is similar to the relationship McDonald’s Restaurants has with restaurant-operator franchisees. It all sounds benign and comforting, but comparing the McDonald’s business model to that of BCLC is misleading to say the least.

When McDonald’s wants to open a restaurant in, say, South Surrey, they are competing against many others who have the right to open in the same place. Also, McDonald’s has an internal competition to select the best available operator.

BCLC, on the other hand, selects an applicant – no one knows how – and hands them a contract which gives them an exclusive right to that territory. In effect, they have gifted a prize worth tens of millions of dollars to someone they know and are comfortable with.

Talk about winning the lottery. The right to operate the casino is a public licence that creates a monopoly. It should be up for competitive bids.

There is no transparency in these decisions. History tells us that combining heaps of money and obscurity is a toxic mix in the best of circumstances. When it involves extremely high rewards and oversight by a compromised bureaucracy, expect the worst to happen, because eventually it will.

Phil Embley, Surrey

• • •

At Wednesday’s casino meeting, many people spoke eloquently and passionately about gambling addiction, crime and the parties involved not effectively contacting the community until the last minute.

Unfortunately, according to the BCLC, Gateway and the City of Surrey, we really are at the 11th hour with this proposal, and the only opportunity we will have for any real input is with our attendance at city hall on Nov. 26 and a potential last meeting scheduled tentatively for Dec. 10.

The City of Surrey, BCLC and Gateway will have their casino – at our very great expense – unless we emphatically tell them otherwise by using every tool at our disposal.

Inform yourself and, if you care about your kids, our vulnerable seniors, increased traffic, noise, your property values and a host of other problems generated by their huge pile of glass and concrete, get out there and tell them what you think.

B.J. Alexander, Surrey

• • •

What is the reasoning behind building a casino in this area?

Additional tax revenue for a mismanaged civic government owned by developers.

They’re planning to build a casino in an area where the City of Surrey has to build an elementary school and a high school, with all the growth in families coming from the Summerfield area.

What is the real revenue for Surrey going to be? Who is this casino going to attract, with casinos in Cloverdale, Langley and Richmond all short distances away?

Is this a mandate to build at all costs and worry about everything else after? I question the reasoning of Mayor Dianne Watts, after wasting millions in tax dollars to move city hall all the way to North Surrey, again negating the voice of constituents in the Peninsula. The Peninsula who by far makes the greatest property tax revenue contributions.

Kevin Yee, Surrey

• • •


I am one of the many South Surrey residents who recently found out about the proposed mega complex/casino/entertainment/conference center, and I am not at all happy about it.

The proposed location is entirely inappropriate. It is a rural farm land, and it is too close to residential neighbourhoods. This type of facility belongs in a more commercial area, closer to mass transit.

The facility will bring light and noise pollution and increased traffic to an overcrowded community.

There is the strong probability of increased crime, resulting in more costs for policing. Gateway shows its own studies that say crime won’t be a problem, but on the day that I write this, a perfect example of this is the hostage-taking outside a New Westminster casino facility.

We have wildlife in abundance in our area, and this will be totally eliminated. As well, Ferguson Creek, a salmon creek, is located on the proposed site. Gateway says the large containment pond will control any water runoff, but accidents do happen.

Gambling addiction is real. Encouraging this as a “fun” entertainment is risky, running the risk of serious financial loss and broken families. Is this a proper exchange just to receive tax revenue?

The public is just now getting information, although the project is nearing approval. This is not very transparent, and there needs to be a referendum to the public about such a project.

Phyllis E. Cole, Surrey

• • •

I attended the meeting at the Pacific Inn, in which an overwhelming number – all but three – were against the planned South Surrey casino.

This project will become nothing more than a white elephant. How can it hope to make any money in these economic bad times? Other casinos are in the red. Theatres have but a handful of patrons a showing. Restaurants and pubs sit idle most of the time. The almost-vacant parking lot of the Pacific Inn Hotel, just across the way, testifies to the slow economy. The Semiahmoo Hotel in Blaine is closing due to “the collapse of its conference-booking business as a result of the 2008 recession.”

Like the freeway interchange on 16 Avenue –which has a direct correlation, despite what the public has been led to believe – this casino is folly.

There will be no profits to put back into good works. It is not a destination that many will see as worth the drive, when so many are closer to home.

What it will bring in is criminal elements and social decline. Check the papers, read police reports, talk to cabbies. These all speak the truth as to what has been happening in and around our city.

This project is huge. It definitely does not merge well with the rural area. So much for looking out for future generations. To lose valuable green space is a crime against both nature and humankind.

Truly, in this economic downturn, now is not the time and this is not the place for such a venture.

Martina Herrick, Surrey

• • •

I was surprised Wednesday to hear the Gateway representative state they were required to survey the community, which they had done online, and that they were receiving more support than opposition.

I visited their website and found the “support the program” tab. When I clicked on it, I found not a question, but a statement which stated “I support the program (check the box)”. There is then only one box with the word “yes” beside it.

Of course they have more yes votes than no votes for support if they do not provide an option to vote “no.” How on earth can this be a genuine attempt to gauge relative support and opposition when only one side is given a voice?

Bob Askew, Surrey

Editor’s note: On the right side of the website is a “quick poll” asking, “What type of amenity do you think will be most beneficial for the community?” The six choices include “none of the above.”

• • •

Re: Casino opinion sought, Nov. 15.

Gateway says more respondents favour their South Surrey casino proposal than oppose it.

Great news. It is about time we get our casino in South Surrey.

Can’t wait. Too bad, two years seem far away.

Roberta Morel, Surrey

‘Rhetoric and misinformation’ mar debate

Most are aware of the proposal under consideration by the City of Surrey to create a new resort casino and entertainment hub at 10 Avenue and 168 Street.

As vice-president of Community Gaming Centres at BCLC, I appreciate the opportunity to share some facts.

The proposal is a relocation and expansion of existing slot machine gaming in Newton, intended to provide a unique destination for dining, concerts, entertainment, accommodation, conventions and gaming. We arrived at this proposal after conducting marketplace research.

1191/4Jim LightbodyThis proposal delivers a choice for residents who want a night out without the added cost and time of travel to neighbouring communities.

Not surprisingly, this has generated a lot of dialogue about land use and, more broadly, gambling in Surrey.

For the record, I get it. Gambling in general can be a touchy subject, and this debate and discussion is an important part of the process, but it’s important that people are basing their opinions and decisions on facts.

First, the site of this proposal has been set aside for commercial development by the city since 2004. While the proposed casino would be the first commercial development for the area, it would not be the last.

Second, I find claims that BCLC has not been transparent to be unfair. We announced the plan in June, and it received significant media coverage. Since then, representatives have held over 20 meetings with community contacts, including the public, business and tourism groups, RCMP and community-service groups.

On Nov. 7, over 350 people attended Gateway’s information session about the project and almost half completed a feedback questionnaire. Around half of those were positive, while the remaining responses were divided between people who were opposed and those who appeared neutral, but had further questions. This demonstrates that while there is opposition, there are many who see value in the project or want to learn more.

Third, there is a troubling misconception that the proposed casino will lead to an increase in crime and problem gambling. The truth is, the facts paint a different picture. A socioeconomic impact study – initiated by the province to assess the impacts of gambling between 2004 and 2006 – found no significant increase in the overall rates of crime or problem gambling. A separate study shows that over the last 10 years, the percentage of adults in B.C. who are at risk of becoming problem gamblers has stayed at 4.6 per cent.

Nevertheless, we have programs to promote responsible use of our products, assist those who identify a problem and initiate research to implement better ways to help.

This proposal is a major investment in Surrey which, if approved, will offer substantial economic benefits. It will provide 500 full-time jobs, 1,200 jobs during construction, generate revenues for governments and community organizations, all while giving people access to great new amenities in a regulated environment.

There is a lot of rhetoric and misinformation out there right now, so I encourage people to review the research and facts available to help inform their point of view.

Jim Lightbody, BC Lottery Corporation




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