Vancouver Permit Board approves supersized Edgewater casino at BC Place: Live blog transcript

Live from the casino expansion debate: Development Permit Board gives Paragon and PavCo. what they want, while acknowledging the risk posed to Vancouverites by gambling.

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"Perhaps it's not an accident that it looks like a walled fortress", since the casino is designed to keep people inside and spending money. Every dollar the province gets from a casino, she says, costs taxpayers $3. This is due to job loss and crime. The proximity to BC Place is in itself problematic, since it's so close to where young men hang out. Their pathological gambling rate, says Reid, "is much higher than [you'd find] in the adult population."

We get $5.5 million in revenue from gambling, she says, but it's costing us close to $200 million. She says, "Come up with something way more appropriate for our city." There should be a clause that allows for gaming reduction if problem gambling increases, and the City should not be afraid to walk away from the deal.

4:33pm: Tom Dury: "We were led to believe that the workers would lose their jobs" if Edgewater were not allowed to expand. He also points out the elephant in the room that is the doubled casino floorspace. "This is a serious public-health issue." He mentions "money-laundering and loan-sharking that find fertile ground around casinos." He mentions the RCMP report calling the River Rock Casino "a magnet of crime". "This is a serious matter of public safety." Can we not wonder, he asks, if we can't look to Oslo or Valencia or Miami Beach for inspiration. "A growing suspicion that Council is not listening" to the public.

4:37pm: Diane Fairfield tells us of her then-84-year-old father, a landlord, who had to sell off his properties. She and her siblings didn't know where the money was going, even as he asked them to borrow money. He's 87 now, having given BC casinos up to $3 million in his lifetime. The casinos would keep calling him, luring him to the gaming floor with cash incentives. Of course, that cash would get spent, along with his own.

Fairfield describes the self-banning program as "a farce." They only enforce it, she says, if the customer actually wins. She also calls out the city regarding their incorrect 311 information regarding this very meeting. She urges the panel to not sweep these stories under the rug.

4:42pm: Lindsay Brown, co-founder of Vancouver Not Vegas, urges panel to send this proposal back to Council so "some harm-reduction measures can be discussed." She then reads from the list of experts who have endorsed Vancouver Not Vegas' recommendation. Professors, economists, physicians, urban planners, architects, entertainment and attractions experts, former city planners, former judges, city councillors (past and present), and former casino employees.

4:47pm: Sandy Garossino reads Prof. Gerald Thomas' letter: "The costs of problem gambling are mostly private and hard to measure." Hopes "the Permit Board postpones its decision." BC gambling facilities "could and should" be designed to reduce the risk of habit-forming behaviour. (Thomas is the lead author of the Kendall Report)

4:50pm: Lindsay Brown reads a letter from Dr. Lu Shao-Hua , addiction psychiatrist. "One robs the bank because that's where the money is." Only 30% of casino visitors polled were there to have fun. "Most of us understand intuitively" that addicition is a complex issue, moreso than a "just-control-yourself" solution suggests. "We wouldn't have a DTES" if it were that easy.

Lu writes that an increase in gaming space will lead to "an increase in local pathological gambling." "It is premature... to finalize approval" until we hear back from public health officials.

4:54pm: Isabel Minty: "This must be referred back to City Council." She says, "Vancouver would be the sole exception that would allow a mega-casino in the heart of its downtown." As for the number of slots and tables, "You'd have to have been born yesterday" to believe that this isn't a mega-casino project, says Minty. These are "addicted governments", says Minty, that see casinos as viable avenues for treasury enrichment. This, she says, preys on less-affluent and less-educated citizens: "the unfortunate ones".

This is also about moving dirty money: "get that through your heads," says Minty: "It's unbelievable how uninformed, how stupid the people who make the decisions allow themselves to be shown as." She says gambling is "too dirty a game for Vancouver to be involved in."

5pm: Nathan Edelson: Development Board "one of the most transparent" in Canada. "I share the concerns" regarding expansion, especially in light of the Kendall Report. Why are there no job provisions attached to the hotel aspect of the project? Is the Permit Board sure that they're approving what they think they're approving?

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