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Recent gang violence strengthens Sean Bickerton's resolve to oppose casino expansion at B.C. Place

The gang-related shootings last weekend highlight the dangers of outside criminal influences infiltrating the city, according to anti-casino activist Sean Bickerton. He is one of a number of people who are concerned that an expanded casino at B.C. Place will lead to a rise in organized crime.

"We've got guns and gangs coming across the border into the city," he said. Bickerton is a member of the False Creek Residents Association, who unanimously voted to oppose the casino.

Those concerned about organized crime associated with the casino fear that there are not enough resources to deal with an increase. The provincial government disbanded the RCMP's Integrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team (IIGET) in 2009.

In an interview with Public Eye several months later, IIGET's former commander Fred Pinnock said his team should have been watching what was happening in legal gaming facilities, instead of focusing their energies on illegal operations. "For the police not to have well-resourced law enforcement units dedicated to casino environments is very short-sighted in my opinion," he said.

Despite earlier reports, no date has been set for the public hearings on the expansion and relocation of Edgewater Casino to B.C. Place. Although the hearings were originally to take place in mid-December to mid-January, the earliest the proposal could be referred for hearing is January 18th, Councillor Geoff Meggs told VO this week.

"If the proposal is in the package presented to council that day, the hearing would happen a number of weeks later," he said.

It's good news for Bickerton. "Now that it's been pushed back a bit, I think the chances are much greater that we could stop this thing. I’ve heard quietly from a lot of people who are really incensed."

Meggs said that both casino's expansion and relocation will be discussed at the public hearings. They could be put forward in one motion, he said.

The casino expansion - a tripling in size of Edgewater casino at Plaza of Nations - is what most upsets Bickerton.

"The social ills affiliated with the current operation have been ameliorated, because they have been absorbed. Our social services can cope with them. If you triple those effects, there’s no way to counter them," he said.

The False Creek Residents Association, along with the Strathcona Residents Association and BC Charitable Gaming are co-sponsoring a forum on the casino to be held at the Roundhouse Community Centre in January.

Editor's Note: Sean Bickerton will discuss the recent shootings in an upcoming article for VO.

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