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New Edgewater casino at BC Place will double gambling in city. Does this have to happen?

Artist's rendering of BC Place casino from PAVCO

Two months ago the crash of the BC Liberal’s new on-line gambling site highlighted the massive expansion in gaming that’s taken place since the Liberal’s took power, underlining the crass lie of their 2001 election promise.  The broken on-line site takes BC into new gambling territory, becoming the first government in North America to launch its own on-line gambling operation.  

On-line gambling isn’t the only area where the BC Liberal government is pushing the gambling envelope.  Earlier this year the government announced that Edgewater Casino -operated by the Las Vegas gambling company Paragon Gaming – will be relocated in the new BC Place redevelopment, across the street from its current location in the Plaza of Nations.  

The announcement generated a storm of controversy when it became known that Paragon minority partner, BC Liberal insider and political appointee T. Richard Turner played a rainmaker role in the negotiations between the government and Paragon. When the deal hit a rough spot over the BC Place roof cost overruns, Turner picked up the phone and called Minister Kevin Kreuger to tell him the government’s consideration of a cheaper roof was jeopardizing the casino deal.  The government dropped the cheaper alternative. And let's don't forget that, in the words of Jonathan Fowlie: "Donor who  gave Liberal's $50,000 got casino contract two months later:"

T. Richard Turner, the Liberal insider who pushed for a retractable roof on BC Place, donated $50,000 to the B.C. Liberal Party two months before his company was named as the preferred bidder for a mega hotel and casino project next to the stadium, Fowlie wrote last April.

Lost in all the flack about on-line gaming and insider deals was another important fact:  The new casino is a huge expansion of gambling in the city of Vancouver.

The government’s press release fudged the expansion, noting only that “Edgewater Casino will be relocated as part of the rezoning process.”  What the government didn’t say was that the new casino gets 1200 more slot machines and over 100 additional table games to ease the pain of moving.  

The deal makes the new casino three times the size of the current Casino.  The new Edgewater will be BC’s largest, almost 50% larger than Richmond’s River Rock casino.  And alone the new casino will double the amount of gambling within the city.  

The new slot machines and tables means a lot more money will leave the pockets of British Columbians.  According to the government, Edgewater’s gaming revenue is projected to increase to $130 million a year, up from the last reported revenue figure of just under $75 million in 2005/06.  But even the $130 million may be significantly underestimated.  The smaller River Rock casino pulls in over $200 million a year in gaming revenue.

“Stop the expansion of gambling that has increased gambling addiction and put new strains on families,"  BC Liberals said during the 2001 election. It was one of many promises they just didn't keep. 

More slots, more poker, more roulette.  Vancouver’s new casino makes it clear that the BC Liberal government is not only willing, they are determined to expand gambling in BC regardless of their hypocritical promises.

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