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Old April 21st, 2011, 10:09 AM   #1
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Vancouver council unanimously rejects $500-million casino expansion

Vancouver council unanimously rejects $500-million casino expansion

Public pressure trumps casino expansion: Mayor Gregor Robertson also called for a moratorium on "any and all applications to expand gambling"

By Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun April 20, 2011

VANCOUVER - Nearly 20 years ago, developer David Podmore watched as a proposal for a “Las Vegas-style” casino his company and Mirage Resorts wanted to build on Vancouver’s waterfront was rejected by the province in the face of major public opposition.

On Tuesday, Podmore, now chairman of the B.C. Pavilion Corp., watched again as his next — and likely last — attempt to bring a major casino to the city went down in flames amid a similar upwelling of public anger.

But this time, the unanimous rejection of the proposed $500-million Paragon Gaming expansion at BC Place spiked all immediate plans for a gambling mecca in the city.

Mayor Gregor Robertson, leading the charge out of the gate during debate, engineered a moratorium on all future gambling facilities until a long, long list of demands is met. And he made it clear the city neither needs nor cares about the vast sums of money dropped into slot machines or on blackjack tables.

“Enabling the largest casino in Western Canada in our downtown doesn’t fit with Vancouver’s global brand as the world’s most livable city, the Green Capital, and hotbed for innovation, from clean and digital technology to resource management,” Robertson said.

This is what it came down to in a city full of sidewalk cafés and bike lanes, of beehives on the roof of city hall and the Vancouver Convention Centre, and where the aroma of the best B.C. bud wafts across the beaches on a sunny day.

Council members want sustainable development and entrepreneurial spirit here, but don’t believe those things can be found in a 1,500-slot machine casino that would, to their minds, divert money from the local economy and produce little in the way of tangible goods.

And council made it clear that the B.C. Lottery Corp. and the province had themselves to blame for the rejection, citing their failure to properly consult with the public and their lack of “internationally recognized best practices” for dealing with a wide range of negative gambling issues.

Robertson said that if they want to come back to council again, they’ll have to first address all those issues, from the prevention of problem gambling and protection against organized crime to adequate treatment for gambling addicts.

Podmore, who became the frontman for the province, the B.C. Lottery Corp. and Paragon Gaming in their hopes to break the no-casino jinx, was disappointed by the unanimous rejection. So too was BCLC president Michael Graydon, whose Crown corporation has been on a campaign to dramatically expand gambling in B.C. and who had wanted to crack the Vancouver market with a major destination casino.

About the only one who appeared not to be surprised was Scott Menke, the president of Las Vegas-based Paragon. “Well, that’s development,” he said simply.

Council’s decision came with a number of caveats, however. Although councillors completely ruled out a future expansion of the casino, they said they still want Paragon and its partners to proceed with a mixed commercial and hotel complex next to the stadium. As part of that, they will allow Paragon’s smaller existing Edgewater Casino to move to the site from the Plaza of Nations.

Menke, Podmore and Graydon all said it was too early to decide whether the entire development is dead or whether it could go ahead without the expanded casino. They said they will meet to consider what the city approved.

But Menke hinted that he’s finished with Vancouver and that he’ll look to move the casino elsewhere in Metro Vancouver before the current lease expires in 2013.

“We certainly are disappointed in today’s outcome but we stand committed to our employees and our supporters in our efforts to find a permanent destination in the Lower Mainland,” he said.

Podmore said council’s rejection does not at all affect PavCo’s $563-million renovation of the stadium and its new roof.

“No, we’ve explained that repeatedly. It doesn’t have any impact on the roof. The roof is fully budgeted at the present time and it will proceed and be completed as planned.”

Podmore has said in the past PavCo needs to raise $75 million from the development of the lands around the stadium to repay a provincial roof loan, but that it could be found from other sources if the casino wasn’t approved.

Pat Bell, the provincial minister of jobs, tourism and innovation, said he accepted the decision.

Bell said in a statement: “We have a renewed government under the leadership of Premier Christy Clark, and we are going to take a fresh look at options to develop this property.

“I have directed PavCo to work with Vancouver council and the community to ensure that any future decisions are in alignment with what the community wants.”

But the rejection is a sizable hit to a number of purses, including the province’s.

PavCo had expected to get $6 million a year from Paragon in a 70-year land lease deal. If Paragon’s projections of up to $390 million a year in casino revenues had proved out, the province would have received another $140 million a year. And the city would have seen its annual cut rise from $6 million a year to as much as $23 million.

But even then, council doubted those ambitious projections. Coun. David Cadman said Paragon has never yet met its revenue promises to the city and he didn’t believe the new promises either.

Asked Tuesday evening how the government will make up the $140 million it stands to lose, Premier Clark said it will look to other development opportunities, though she did not know what those might be.

“PavCo’s job is to develop that site and they’re going to develop it. And if there’s not going to be a casino as a tenant in it, there will be other tenants and we’ll get revenue from that,” she said in response to questions at her nomination meeting for the Vancouver-Point Grey byelection.

“This is how the process is designed to work and nothing was ever guaranteed with this. We’ve always been partners with the city and if the city votes that this is unacceptable then we are going to respect that decision.”

As far as plans for gambling expansion are concerned, she said, her primary focus will be to ensure that money raised through gambling is properly allocated to charities.

She said the government will appoint a gaming revenue commission, to be headed by a retired judge or “someone of that ilk,” to look at the government’s relationship with charities and how it can ensure government funding for charities is stable and renewable.

In rejecting the casino plan, Robertson and many of the councillors thanked a broad coalition of opponents who gathered under the banner Vancouver Not Vegas! for reminding them of the city’s needs. Sandy Garossino, the main spokeswoman for the group, said she was “terribly relieved, very very happy” that council had killed the expansion.

She said her group is now looking at whether the B.C. Gaming Act would allow the current Edgewater Casino to move next to BC Place without having to submit a new application.

Paragon’s casino and hotel expansion proposal spelled trouble for every councillor. Coun. Kerry Jang pointed to the Portuguese enclave of Macau as an object lesson in what happens when a community becomes a gambling mecca. The enclave, near Hong Kong, has lost its identity and he didn’t want the same to happen to Vancouver.

As an addiction researcher, Jang said he was deeply troubled by BCLC’s glamorization of gambling and that it appeared only interested in promoting “responsible gaming” but not dealing with “problem gambling.”

Coun. George Chow said the city wasn’t swayed by the demands of the provincial government, which has an agenda to attract people into gambling. “They [the people of Vancouver] are the ones who decide the future of the city,” he said.

Only Suzanne Anton, the lone Non-Partisan Association councillor, said she could have accepted a phased-in expansion as proposed by Podmore. But even then, she said she couldn’t support the overall expansion and noted her party has long opposed expanded gambling.

The decision came after the longest public hearing in the city’s recent history, which tapped into a deep well of opposition from many different quarters. It did not matter whether they were supporters of Vision Vancouver, the NPA or the Coalition of Progressive Electors; virtually the only ones supporting the expansion were Paragon’s employees and a few business groups.

But councillors praised Paragon’s employees, who came out to plead for approval. Their stories of how Paragon has been a good employer were redemptive, said Coun. Andrea Reimer. But she still “never considered a casino as a place of redemption,” she said.

Cadman counselled Paragon’s 600 employees to “keep your yellow [Save Our Casino] shirts” and now challenge their company to keep the casino open in its limited form.

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Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/health/V...#ixzz1K8gnPUOF
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Old April 21st, 2011, 10:13 AM   #2
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No casino: PavCo turns its attention to BC Place refurbishment

Chairman says he’s leaving the door open for Paragon Gaming, B.C. Lottery Corp. to come back with revised plan ‘if economics work’

By Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun April 20, 2011 9:37 PM

Any plans for commercial development next to BC Place Stadium have been shelved until at least the fall, B.C. Pavilion Corp. chairman David Podmore said the day after city council rejected a $500-million casino expansion project at BC Place.

Podmore told The Vancouver Sun Wednesday that even though council approved the development without an expansion of the Edgewater Casino, he’s turning his attention to completing the $563-million refurbishment of the stadium.

“We’ve got a lot of work to get the stadium complete for Sept. 30 and I don’t think we’re going to have time to focus both on what the alternatives are for the development and to complete the stadium,” he said.

At the same time, Non-Partisan Association Coun. Suzanne Anton said her vote in favour of Mayor Gregor Robertson’s amended motion approving most elements of the proposal has been wrongly interpreted as a vote against the now-defeated expansion.

Anton said she has always been in favour of a destination casino in Vancouver and would have voted in favour of one if such a motion had been presented. “I said I would have supported expanded gambling and that I was very worried that this project was going down and the jobs that might be lost,” Anton said.

“I didn’t vote against it. I voted for it. That’s the confusion. The motion was in support of the project. It was a motion worded entirely in the positive.”

Robertson’s motion included approval of a hotel and retail complex and the movement of the existing Edgewater casino, but specifically eliminated words that would have allowed Paragon to install a 1,500-slot machine casino.

Anton also voted in favour of Robertson’s call for a moratorium on all future gambling expansion. But she said that moratorium is so full of holes “you could drive a truck through it.”

“That moratorium is the weakest moratorium you ever saw in your life,” she said. “Mark my words. This will be back. Mayor Robertson betrayed PavCo yesterday. You don’t bring a half-billion dollar project to council without believing you have the mayor’s support.”

She alleged Robertson is likely working with the province to bring back a casino application after the Nov. 19 civic election.

This is the second time Anton has voted one way on a major issue, then voiced a different opinion later.

Last October she was part of a unanimous vote in favour of the Hornby Street bike lane. A few days later, she sought to rescind her vote after learning city workers had begun construction of the lane the morning after council’s approval. She said people who came to council to oppose the lane didn’t expect to appear before “a kangaroo council.”

Vision Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs said he was stunned at Anton’s newest reversal, saying if she wanted to support the casino expansion she could have made her own amendments, severed motions or created “strike and replace” wording to get her position across.

“She’s trying to cover her tracks with the most bizarre allegations, and it is almost beneath comment,” he said.

In an interview earlier in the day, Podmore said he was leaving the door open to Paragon Gaming and the B.C. Lottery Corp. to come back to PavCo with a revised plan to include the existing Edgewater Casino “if the economics work.”

Paragon president Scott Menke and BCLC president Michael Graydon said after the council meeting they will consider their options. But in the past, Menke has said that if the city didn’t approve the expansion, he would look to move his casino out of Vancouver before the current lease expires in 2013.

“If they [Paragon] want it, the opportunity is there for them to relocate to that site,” Podmore said.

“Both they and PavCo would have to be satisfied that that can work and that the economics are acceptable. But that is going to take time to figure out.”

Paragon officials refused to be interviewed Wednesday, but issued the following statement: “We remain convinced that there is a demand for a world-class destination entertainment complex in the Lower Mainland. However, council’s resolution for a relocation is a significant change from our current proposal and objectives. There are a lot of considerations we will need to take into account, with our first priority being our employees. In the days and weeks ahead, we will explore all of the options for moving forward.”

A statement issued Wednesday by BCLC’s Graydon said: ‘While it was not the result we wanted, we did receive approval to relocate the existing Edgewater casino to BC Place lands.

“From the very beginning, we have tried to develop ideas and approaches that are progressive, and capitalize on the huge market potential that a renovated BC Place stadium represents. In light of council’s decision, BCLC and Paragon will be focusing on design, operational and financial feasibility models for relocation.

“We know there is market opportunity in the Lower Mainland and, moving forward, we will be examining all options and working closely with local communities and Paragon as we determine next steps.”

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/casino+P...#ixzz1K8huOTkc
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Old April 25th, 2011, 09:23 AM   #3
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What is the city afraid of? Singapore has two huge casinos right in the city: The Sands (USA) and Genting (Malaysia), with the latter having the Universal Studios attached to it. Both casinos also have iconic 5-star hotels and shopping/entertainment podiums adjoined. Together with these amenities, these two casinos have attracted countless tourists from neighbouring countries to play, dine and stay there. It is also important to note that Singapore is one of the safest cities in the world. So again that begs the question: what is Vancouver afraid of? People who can't behave themselves perhaps?
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Old April 25th, 2011, 10:29 AM   #4
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I love vancouver but the people who run the city are a bunch of incompetent jerks. The excuses they have for rejecting the casino plan is just plain stupid. I was in Las Vegas for so many times and I'd never been robbed and I felt totally safe walking alone on the streets.
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Old September 28th, 2013, 01:53 AM   #5
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Partnership involving Las Vegas company to revive Vancouver hotel-casino project

September 24, 2013


A $535 million hotel-casino project in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, that was scuttled nearly two-and-a-half years ago by city leaders, has been revived through a partnership between Las Vegas-based Paragon Gaming Inc. and two Canadian corporations. The project’s developers announced the deal Tuesday morning at a news conference in Vancouver.

Paragon, whose chief executive officer is Diana Bennett, daughter of the late Las Vegas gaming pioneer William Bennett, is joined in the development by Dundee Corp., a Canadian investment company, and 360 Vox Corp., a Canadian real estate developer. The resort project, first proposed in 2010 by Paragon, is adjacent to the BC Place stadium.

The development will have two luxury resort hotels totaling 550 rooms, a 40,000-square-foot conference center, restaurants, retail space and will serve as the new home for the existing Edgewater Casino in Vancouver, which is operated by Paragon. In March, Vancouver city leaders agreed to a scaled-back proposal with Paragon that reduced the scope of development. The lease agreement included a 70-year term with $3 million in annual payments.

In 2011, Vancouver residents voiced their displeasure with a large casino located in downtown. The City Council rejected the development plans. “We listened to the community and understood their concerns,” said Paragon President Scott Menke. “We believe that we have brought in the right partners and have designed an urban resort consistent with the desires of the city.”

A key to the project’s revival was a reduction in size of the casino from 1,100 slot machines and 200 table games. Paragon will transfer its 600 slot machines and 75 table games from the nearby Edgewater to the new development. The old casino will be closed. The number of hotel rooms was also reduced from the original concept. Still, the project, which is expected to open by the end of 2016, will be the largest casino in Western Canada.

We are floating in space...
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Old September 29th, 2015, 04:36 AM   #6
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Another inner-city casino proposal rejected...

Haven't I heard of a story like this already?

Oh yeah, Oxford Place in TO
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