Vancouverites speak out about proposed casino at BC Place: live blog from City Hall

10:10 -- Brian Middleton, first speaker comes up. He started working for casinos 25 yrs ago. He speaks in support of the casino and questions why charities and sports programs are funded through gambling, and not government. 

10:12 -- Susan Spratt, representing the Canadian Autoworkers Union (CAW) Edgewater Bargaining, talks about how she is not convinced that the expanded casino will increase crime or problem gambling in Vancouver. She says the increase of bars has not led to an increase of alcoholics in BC, and that urges City Council to remember that gambing is merely a form of social interaction for most people who enter the casino. She talks about the benefits of having 1500 new jobs in construction and having two new hotels in the city. 

People who work at the casino get health benefits if they work over 20hrs a week at the casino. 

[Meggs asks Spratt if managers have told her that jobs and benefits would be under threat if relocation were approved, but expansion was not. Spratt says this was not discussed.

Meggs asks if jobs will be secure if only the relocation happens but not expansion. Spratt answers that there is a concern of casino closure, and says that jobs are not secure.] 

Anton asks the skill level required to work at an entry-level job at the casino. Spratt answers that a Grade 12 education is required, but that the casino will help new employees acquire training and education to meet the equivalency. 

Anton asks about the casino hiring from the DTES. "It's had its bumps, it's had its ups and donwns," she says, but insists that it has been successful.   Spratt says there are 50 employees from the DTES currently working at the casino. Councillor Chow asks if the casino is losing money. Spratt says they have never lost money, but that there is great uncertainty, and that this makes it difficult for the union members to bargain with employers. She says the Edgewater and PavCo have already said the current Edgewater casino cannot move. 

10:30 - Alan Foster references a radio interview with Burnaby and Coquitlam mayors and says that the mayors insist there has been no increase in crime since casinos were built, and that there has been no increased drain on police resources. Foster insists that the new casino is "not a megacasino" and notes that a small town like Niagara Falls has 4500 slot machines. He says money should be made off gamblers to help Vancouver achieve its green goals. 

Stevenson asks about money laundering, saying "I'm very concerned that you almost seem flippant about it." He talks about being in New Zealand recently, and the front page of the Auckland newspaper talking about the huge problem of money-laundering by Asian gangs. Foster replies that money laundering is a big problem, but that stopping casino expansion is not going to reduce that problem. 

Jang presses about money laundering. He mentions that casino workers are trained every two years to recognize money laundering, but asks what else is specifically done to prevent money laundering. 

"The rules (for preventing money laundering) are so strict, so strict...they're rigidly enforced," insists Foster. Jang replies that money laundering has occurred despite the strict rules, and asks what else is being done to prevent money laundering. Foster asks Jang to talk to BCLC for that. 

10:40 - Jessica Wadsworth mentions that she is a single parent, and says she strongly opposes casino expansion. She talks about her experience being assaulted by a homeless woman, and about Vancouver needing to address street safety before working on casino expansion. She says she worked with troubled youth, and has seen how gambling addiction has destroyed their families. "If the streets already have problems we have yet to address, I can't imaging what an expanded casino will bring tot he downtown core."  

10:45 -- Bill McCreery talks about a scene in a casino of a young woman on her knees, grasping her husband's trousers and begging him to stop gambling and to come home to his children. He says Councillor Meggs had clarified earlier that the casino was not a major consideration for workers in the construction industry, and that jobs would be created by different means anyway. He proposes the alternative of an "exclusive boutique casino-hotel" that caters to VIP gamblers from overseas, such that there are fewer gamblers with deeper pockets making more money for the city. 

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