City Council to hold public hearings on B.C. Place casino in February

Vancouver City Council debates Edgewater Casino expansion issue in a photo by Emily Barca

City council reviewed a several reports relating to developments in the area of Northeast False Creek yesterday, including a report on  the relocation and expansion of the Edgewater Casino at B.C. Place. All reports were referred to a public hearing in February.

A motion from Councillor Ellen Woodsworth to suspend gaming expansion in the city was referred to a city services and budgets meeting on Thursday.

Approval of the casino expansion, which is part of a hotel and entertainment complex at B.C. Place, is expected to generate 17 million dollars in annual revenue for the city.

At the meeting, David McLellan, general manager of community services, presented an overview of issues related to the expansion of gaming in Vancouver. His report included an overview of the social costs of gaming, the impact of gaming on crime and the history of charitable gaming funds.

McLellan noted that the amount of money allocated to charities had dropped from 156 million in 2008-2009 to 112.5 million the following year. He also noted that the number of problem gamblers in the province is estimated at 4.6% of the adult population. In Vancouver, that amounts to 21, 000 residents.

Councillors peppered McLellan with questions relating to various aspects of the expansion of gaming in Vancouver.

Councillor Woodsworth asked who would be responsible for paying for a potenial increase in policing costs associated with the casino.

"The investigation of crime in the city is a city responsibility. The laying of charges would come through the VDP and any investigation of crime would crome through them. The identification of issues and concerns are the responsibility of the casino and the B.C. Lottery Corporation within the wall of the casino," McLellan said.

A number of councillors raised questions related to problem gambling.

"Will the number of problem gamblers remain the same when we expand gambling in a far more visible place in downtown Vancouver?" Councillor Stevenson asked.

Councillor Jang asked what proportion of the casino's profits would be due to problem gamblers. "These folks could be making up 40-45% of the casino's profits, and that's not something that I would like to see encouraged," he said.

As McLellan was unable to provide the answer to this question, it may be raised again at the public hearings.

Councillor Woodsworth called for the casino to be considered separately from the rest of the development.

"We could separate the debate on the casino from the rest of the parcel. The casino kind of vanishes into the larger discussion," Woodsworth said.

However, all reports will be referred to public hearing in February.

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