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UPDATED: BCLC gives final approval to Delta casino

Mediator found City of Richmond did not substantiate its crime, traffic and transportation concerns
A rendering of the soon-to-be-built Cascades Casino in Delta. (Grace Kennedy photo)

It’s full steam ahead for Delta’s new Cascades casino.

The British Columbia Lottery Corporation has given final approval to the proposed gaming and entertainment facility, to be built at the site of the Delta Town & Country Inn in Ladner. Construction will begin in early 2019, with the casino expected to open mid-2020.

The $70-million facility, which will be operated by Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Ltd., will include a hotel, restaurants, meeting space and a casino with approximately 500 slot machines, 24 table games and up to six electronic table games.

“We look forward to bringing this state of-the-art entertainment destination to such a rapidly growing and dynamic community. Through our investment … we will bring up to 700 new jobs and careers to the area and significant economic spin-offs during the construction and beyond,” Gateway CEO Tony Santo said in press release.

RELATED: Proposed Delta casino to be part of ‘Cascades’ brand

According to a BCLC background document, it’s estimated the new casino could bring the City of Delta about $1.5 million to $3 million per year in new revenue.

BCLC put out a call to local governments south of the Fraser in early June, 2016 asking for expressions of interest in hosting a gambling and entertainment facility. Delta did so later that month and was selected as the lottery corporation’s preferred location in November of that year.

Throughout the consultation and approval process, the project was met with opposition from many residents, as well as from the City of Richmond, culminating in a heated two-day public hearing early this May that saw over 100 people sign up to speak.

Delta council approved the project 4-2 on July 30 of this year, with then-mayor Lois Jackson and then-councillors Bruce McDonald, Robert Campbell and Sylvia Bishop voting in favour of Gateway’s proposal. Heather King and Jeannie Kanakos voted against the project.

READ MORE: Delta casino gets the green light from city

As per the Gaming Control Act, the City of Delta notified adjacent local governments of its decision, and those bodies then had the opportunity to object to the proposed facility before BCLC gave it the final okay.

The City of Richmond, which had long been opposed to Delta getting a casino, filed an objection with BCLC expressing concerns about crime, traffic and transportation, according to a lottery corporation press release.

Richmond’s objection triggered a required non-binding dispute resolution process and BCLC appointed an independent third-party mediator, Simon Margolis, to address the city’s issues. BCLC received Margolis’ report on Oct. 15, 2018, which concluded that the City of Richmond did not provide supporting documentation to substantiate its concerns. As such, BCLC finalized its approval of the project.

With all the necessary approvals now in place, Gateway will turn its attention to completing the design work and site preparation, with construction set to begin in the new year “pending the finalization of the land arrangements with the landowners,” according to a press release.

Animosity regarding the project spilled into this fall’s municipal election, as candidates for mayor and council were asked several times to clarify their position in regards to the casino. Incumbents who voted in favour of the facility, as well as former city manger (now mayor) George Harvie, were also asked to justify their support of the project.

During the campaign, Harvie pledged to use casino revenue to support addiction services while also advocating for cashless gaming to help stop money laundering.

READ MORE: Harvie to fight for cashless casinos if elected Delta mayor

“I’ve spoken with families experiencing substance use and mental health challenges in our community, and I’ve heard that many of them feel alone in getting the help they need,” Harvie said in an August press release. “That’s got to change, and our plan will provide assistance to Delta’s many community service organizations to better support those in desperate need.”

Harvie also said that as mayor he would “lead the charge” to keep dirty money out of gambling establishments.

“It’s high time for municipalities to demonstrate leadership on this issue,” Harvie said. “As mayor, I will present for council approval a motion requesting the Attorney General to work with the Union of B.C. Municipalities to implement a system for cashless casinos.”

The first business meeting of council will take place on Nov. 16. The agenda for the meeting has not yet been set, and it’s unknown when Harvie intends to table that motion.

Back in August, Harvie cited New Zealand as a successful example of a jurisdiction that has moved towards cashless casinos, offering card-based and ticket-based options for responsible gambling.

“I think Delta should be at the forefront of initiating a systematic change that would virtually end money laundering in our casinos. There’s simply no place for that here in Delta or in our province, and as mayor I will always fight to ensure the utmost safety of our community,” Harvie said.

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James Smith

About the Author: James Smith

James Smith is the founding editor of the North Delta Reporter.
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