Residents pack Surrey council chambers to hear speakers at Friday night's public hearing on the Gateway casino/entertainment complex proposal (inset: Rich Coleman, B.C. minister responsible for gaming.

Coleman chides City of Surrey over casino decision

Minister responsible for gaming says casino proposal will go elsewhere, mayor says hotel-convention centre doesn't need gambling component

Reaction to the City of Surrey’s decision on the proposed casino/entertainment complex from Rich Coleman, B.C.’s minister responsible for gaming, was a swift thumbs-down.

He suggested that other areas, including First Nations communities that had expressed interest, would be more likely to be investigated as potential sites for such a complex in future.

But Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Kevin Falcon – a member of Coleman’s caucus – said Monday he felt that while council members had faced a difficult issue, “they ultimately made the right decision with respect to what the community wanted.”

In his comments on Saturday, Coleman asserted that Surrey had already approved zoning for a casino at the South Surrey site, and that amenities of the proposal, such as the hotel and conference centre, had been included at Surrey’s request, only to be turned down by council.

He also repeated the claim, widely reported early in the campaign for the casino, that Surrey would have received 10 per cent of the profits, or some $6 million per year.

Gateway Casinos had since admitted that Surrey’s take from the proposed complex would be closer to the $3 million estimated by the city. The company acknowledged the $6 million potential annual benefit to the city – cited on Gateway’s website as an incentive for approving the new proposal –  included revenues already received from other gambling operations in Surrey, including Fraser Downs.

In later comments Saturday, Coleman appeared to back off a little on his earlier critical stance on the city, noting that, while he was disappointed on Surrey’s behalf, B.C.’s gaming policy is not to force such a proposal on a community that doesn’t want it.

He was unavailable for comment Monday.

Watts, who noted zoning for gaming wasn’t already approved, told the Peace Arch News Monday that the land still sits at third reading, and that the original developer of the property made a commitment at the time of the land-use public hearing in January 2011 that a hotel and convention centre would proceed with or without a casino.

“The architect stated it was not predicated on a casino license. The developer went on record that a casino would be the icing on the cake, that it wouldn’t be a deal breaker,” she said, noting the casino license is only one piece in determining the future of the site.

Watts said council will await further proposals from the current owners.



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