Council voted 4-2 in favour of the third reading for the proposed Delta casino. (Grace Kennedy photo)

Delta council gives preliminary approval to Ladner casino

The 4-2 vote came after a lengthy public hearing on the project

Delta council has given the go ahead for a casino to be built in Ladner, providing BCLC and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure are on board.

At a public hearing about the casino project Wednesday night, Delta council voted 4-2 to give the application third reading. The project would see a casino built on the current Town & Country Inn site by Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Ltd., complete with 500 slot machines and 24 gaming tables. It would also include a 124-room hotel, three restaurants and a 7,000 square foot banquet hall for meetings.

Wednesday night’s hearing was a continuation of Tuesday’s hearing, which saw 47 speakers share their thoughts on the casino project.

The majority of those speakers were against the proposal because of concerns around money laundering, addiction and traffic. Others who were in favour of the project spoke about the need for community amenities and the revenue from the casino.

RELATED: Delta residents divided at casino public hearing

This trend continued during the Wednesday night hearing, although residents were more evenly split on whether a casino would be a benefit to the community.

Money laundering remained a concern for those opposed to the casino, and many who spoke asked council to delay their decision on a casino until after recommendations based on Peter German’s report on money laundering were in place.

RELATED: Money laundered through B.C. casinos for years

At the start of the hearing, Delta Police Chief Neil Dubord spoke about how the DPD would be impacted by potential money laundering at the casino in light of many comments made the previous night.

“It’s a type of crime that can simply not be tackled at the local level,” he said. Delta police officers would be more concerned about local crime — assaults, theft from vehicles — that occurred around the casino. He said the casino would not attract any more of that type of crime than a mall or movie theatre.

Tennis players also made their appearance at the hearing, speaking once again about the importance of having a covered tennis facility in Delta.

In the discussion following the hearing, director of parks, recreation and culture Ken Kunz said that discussions about possibly replacing the bubble at the tennis court have been happening within the city.

“We are in the very early days of that dialogue, so I don’t want to create hope that it will be resolved quickly,” he said, but they have been talking with people who would be interested in being a part of a new facility.

In total, more than 100 people signed up to speak, although not everyone made it to the podium during the second night of the hearing. A majority of speakers were against, and some spoke about family struggles with gambling addictions .

During the special meeting at the end of the public hearing, Counc. Robert Campbell said that council had heard a number of heartfelt pleas on both sides of the casino debate, however his decision had to be based on the evidence.

“We base it on what the whole package is,” he said. “Yes there are downsides to gambling … [but] for the most part they generate wealth and economic return for the communities they exist in.”

Campbell voted in favour of the application, as did Counc. Bruce McDonald, Counc. Sylvia Bishop and Mayor Lois Jackson.

Councillors Jeannie Kanakos and Heather King voted against the application.

“I haven’t heard a resounding call from the supporters that they would like to have a gambling facility,” King said. “I’ve heard that they want all good things to step us into the next generation.”

“The people who have not supported it have had very valid concerns of losing what they felt Ladner means to them,” she continued.

Counc. Ian Paton was absent from the proceedings, as a resident pointed out a potential conflict of interest between his position as an MLA and his position as a councillor.

Gateway’s casino application, having passed third reading by Delta council, will now be referred to the BCLC and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for approval. If both those parties give their approval, it would be brought back to council for final consideration and adoption.

Correction: an earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the casino as being six storeys. Although the building will be six storeys, that includes the five-storey hotel and the casino.

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