A battle long brewing comes to a head tonight at City Hall

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Mah believes there is a need to balance the possible social costs of gambling developments with support for those who might be negatively impacted. “If [Vancouver is] going to invest that much money into casinos, they need to very visibly put an equal amount of money into gambling addiction programs and [combating] similar, related addiction problems.”

When asked what effect he thought that the expanded venue would have on neighbouring businesses, Mah was not optimistic. “If you look at some of the other casinos, [they] are all-encompassing. They’ve got entertainment. They’ve got a wide variety of food... I think that there may not be a whole lot of spillover. It’s not like, you know, a hockey game, [where] you have a choice of having hot dogs or spending a couple of hours in a [nearby] pub, [which is] a decent spillover...I think a smaller-scale casino would be okay.”

Despite his desire to see outcomes balanced, Mah doesn’t feel the need to make himself heard at the upcoming public hearings. He is confident that given the large numbers of those intending to speak, his views will be adequately represented. “I feel there are people who agree with me and will very much say what I would say,” he said.

On the Vancouver Observer Facebook page, a lively conversation has taken over the last few weeks about the proposed casino expansion at B.C. Place. 

Christine Abrams wrote: "How about we need more opportunities to gamble, like we need more holes in our heads? How about the reality that it's tied to organized crime? How about the fact that provincial gambling revenues are now going into a general revenue fund instead of to non-profit groups and the province in making money off of people's addictions?"
Paul Berti said: "More opportunities to gamble. How are there more? There's already a casino downtown. Everything in life is a gamble, buying a house is a gamble, buying stocks is a gamble, using fiat currency issued from the Bank of Canada is a gamble..."

Some see the massive new casino as certain to bring negative impacts to proposed site, which is a few blocks away from Canada's poorest postal code, the Downtown Eastside. Critics have questioned how much revenue the casino will bring to the city. "They had better come prepared," wrote Neil Monckton in the Vancouver Observer in February about citizens approaching city council at public hearings. "Because so far, the BC Liberal government has offered the city little in return for accepting this controversial development.

"With triple the capacity of the existing Edgewater site, this monster gambling house is 61 per cent larger than BC’s biggest casino, Richmond’s River Rock. It will feature 150 tables and up to 1,500 slot machines – nearly 15 per cent of all the slots in the province."

Last October, Councillor Ellen Woodsworth said the province was serious about securing a development permit from the City.

"They want things their way. We have to work with them to get housing that we need, we have to work with them to get infrastructure dollars. Cities get eight cents of the tax dollar." If the City doesn't work with the provincial and federal monies, we can't accomplish any of the things that we need to do, including providing social housing, said Woodsworth.

"We’re in a very vulnerable situation here."

History of project

While Vancouverites were trying to make sense of the problems surrounding the Olympic Village right before the 2008 civic election, the development proposal for a super-sized casino next to B.C. Place quietly passed through City Council. It was apparently one of the final acts of the NPA-dominated council, an act that went little noticed at the time due to the controversies raging around the Olympic Village. Nonetheless, the decision may have far-reaching impacts on the community around the development for years to come. As reported in previous stories, many believe the impacts will not be positive.

In 2008, the NPA-dominated city council under Mayor Sam Sullivan approved the redevelopment of Northeast False Creek, including the Plaza of Nations, the land around BC Place and GM Place, just before the municipal elections.

Up until this point, this land was not considered for development, but then the province decided that they wanted to develop the area, Councillor Geoff Meggs said in an interview. Gordon Campbell's former deputy [Ken Dobell] was hired by the city and the province to study cultural infrastructure, said Meggs.

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