Last Wednesday, the False Creek Residents Association (FCRA) voted unanimously to oppose the expansion and relocation of Edgewater casino to B.C. Place. They join a growing list of community and arts groups calling for increased community amenities in return for the mega-casino.
Sean Bickerton, one of the 10 steering committee members present at the meeting, said that his Association has a number of concerns about the development. "This will be a huge expansion. It will triple the number of slots," he said.
Casino funds should be going back to communities to fund arts, education and sports, he said. "If we’re going to have the social impact and costs that come with a casino, we want a substantial stream of that revenue to go back to local communities."
Paragon, the casino developers, are providing communities amenities in the form of a retractable roof on BC Place as well as a contribution to the creation of a new Smithe Street connection and to other street infrastructure. While these are important upgrades, the developers have not done enough for the community, Bickerton said.
Paragon did not respond to VO's request for comment before publication time.
The FCRA recommended that developers create a day care for their employees who will be doing shift work. "Otherwise, this need will be imposed on the local community," he said. The Association has also called for youth recreation facilities housed off-site the casino, to provide young people with alternatives to gambling.
"There are also some design issues that we are worried about. This is a great, big box. It's got three huge towers," Bickerton said. The FCRA is asking developers to make the casino more visually appealing by animating the street level. The Association suggested building restaurants or cafes at the base of the building. "It's important not to have dead, empty streets," Bickerton said.
"Michael Geller [who is not a FCRA member] has suggested that Paragon use new low-energy lighting panels [on the casino's exterior]. These have been used to cloak a number of pavilions at the Shanghai World Expo that he found very beautiful," Bickerton said.
The FCRA is concerned about traffic and parking in the area around the stadium. "This new development will bring in 300 extra cars per hour. That's a large increase in traffic with no system to deal with it. It also means that there will be an increase in pollution," Bickerton said.
Finally, the FCRA would like to see a binding agreement with Paragon Gaming to ensure the survival of Planet Bingo on Main Street. "For years, it has been taken care of by Edgewater casino," Bickerton said.
The FCRA is working with the BC Association for Charitable Gaming association and other groups to call for more community amenties. In October, the BCACG called for the City of Vancouver to make the expansion of gaming conditional upon the provincial government honouring its 1999 Memorandum of Agreement, which included a formula for 33 percent of gaming revenues to be invested in non-profit social service organizations serving the elderly, disabled, sports, cultural, environmental and other sectors.
The FCRA and the BCACG are working towards holding a public forum in early January.
Public hearings at City Hall for the B.C. Place casino are slated for January 18th, Bickerton said.