Opinion

Up the ante at Cascades

The casino issue has become one for much speculation, so I might as well take a shot at it.

Surrey council has turned down a casino proposal for South Surrey. The proposed casino, hotel and convention centre would have been built in a rural area adjacent to Highway 99, and would be some distance from other commercial facilities and transit.

Fort Langley-Aldergrove MLA Rich Coleman, minister responsible for gaming, weighed in after the vote, saying that Surrey should get no consideration from B.C. Lottery Corporation in the future. It later developed that he phoned at least two members of Surrey council in between the two nights the public hearing took place. Some are saying he crossed the line by doing so.

Meanwhile, BCLC is suggesting that the casino could go in Delta or Langley. Langley City’s casino could be expanded, and that seems the most logical if BCLC wants to add more gambling facilities south of the Fraser.

Langley Township is suggesting it would like a casino on the Gibbs nursery property it just purchased, adjacent to the Langley Events Centre where, incidentally, Coleman has his constituency office.

I can’t see two casinos in Langley making much sense. There aren’t that many gamblers around this area. I’d be surprised if Gateway wanted to build a new one in the Township, which would seriously affect its existing casino in the City.

Delta seems unlikely to want a new casino. Mayor Lois Jackson says residents spoke out strongly against a casino when one was proposed about eight years ago. That was in South Delta. A North Delta casino  might make more sense, but would be located quite close to the existing Starlight Casino in the Queensborough area of New Westminster.

I believe that the Lower Mainland is well-served by casinos, considering how few of them there were when the BC Liberals took office in 2001. Keep in mind, one of the planks in Gordon Campbell’s campaign was that there would be no expansion of gaming.

The Liberals are now addicted to the revenue (over $1 billion) that comes their way through gambling, and it is not going to be reduced in scope. There seems to be enough business to keep the current casinos busy and profitable, but gamblers don’t just gamble here. Many gamble online. Others like to make trips to places like Las Vegas, which offers entertainment opportunities that are impossible here.

Others like to go to Washington state to gamble. Many gamblers like variety, and that won’t change.

It seems to me that the best option for BCLC would be to talk to Langley City council and see what expansions to the existing Cascades Casino would meet with its approval. If the casino can be expanded in such a way as to include a theatre which was significantly larger than the present one, and open to all members of the community, not just those over 19, it could be a significant benefit to Langley.

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