Randy Scott speaking in favour of the proposed Delta casino at the May 1 public hearing. (Grace Kennedy photo)

Randy Scott speaking in favour of the proposed Delta casino at the May 1 public hearing. (Grace Kennedy photo)

Delta residents divided at casino public hearing

Too many speakers means the hearing will continue Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Ladner Community Centre

Many residents at Tuesday night’s hearing on the proposal to build a casino in Delta agreed that the community needs to support local families. They differed, however, on whether a casino is the right way to go about that.

Over the course of the four-hour public hearing at the Ladner Community Centre on May 1, 47 individuals shared their thoughts on the proposed casino, to be located at the current Town & Country Inn site.

The proposed casino would include a gambling facility with 500 slot machines, a five-storey hotel with up to 124 rooms, three restaurants with outdoor patio space, and meeting facilities. It’s estimated the casino would bring between $1.5 million and $3 million in revenue to the City of Delta, as well as provide 700 jobs with an annual payroll of about $25 million.

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At Tuesday’s hearing, many residents wondered whether the potential revenue from the casino would be worth it. Delta council isn’t completely sure where that revenue would go as of yet, however, the consensus among audience members seemed to be that it would go towards sports and community amenities.

That wasn’t good enough for resident Peter Miller.

“Some money isn’t worth having,” Miller said during his five minute speech to council. The crowd cheered after his statement. “You people above all have got to know that. It’s time to turn the tap off.”

For those who were against the proposed casino, the potential damage caused by gambling addictions, money laundering and associated crime far outweighed the prospects of increased revenue and amenities.

“Can we think of some other way to meet those needs?” a Ladner mother asked about the hotel and restaurant need in Delta. “Are we really going to sell those families for $1.5 or $3 million?”

Traffic was also a concern for those opposed to the casino project, particularly when it came to Highway 99 and the George Massey Tunnel.

“Who in their right mind would put a casino in the number one pinch point in the Lower Mainland?” one resident asked.

Although his question was rhetorical, it was answered in part by Delta’s deputy director of engineering, Hugh Fraser, who said that the casino was proposed with “a free-flow traffic condition” in the works, referring to the replacement of the tunnel with a new 10-lane bridge. That is now on hold pending the result of an independent review of the project ordered by the B.C. government. However, Fraser said, traffic on River Road where the casino would be located was able to support increased vehicle movement.

For those in support of the casino, importance was put on the amenities the casino would bring and the desire to keep gambling revenue in the community. Although they were marginally fewer in number, casino supporters still had a strong presence at the hearing.

A number of speakers, including former New Westminster mayor Wayne Wright, looked to New West when the Starlight Casino was first introduced. Wright said the casino helped his community, and didn’t see a corresponding increase in crime.

Two men spoke from experience working with Gateway Casinos, and one warned against seeing all gambling facilities as the same.

“We’re painting the brush of casinos across the province,” he said. “We need to give them a chance to show their resumé and how they do it.”

In addition to the casino supporters and opposition, a number of tennis players also came out to make their voices heard. These individuals fell on both sides of the casino debate — some for and some against — but all wanted Delta to ensure another indoor tennis facility would come to the city if the casino project moved forward. (The exisitng indoor tennis club on the property would be demolished during construction of the casino.)

“If they remove Delta’s only indoor tennis facility, the members of Tsawwassen, Ladner and Sunshine Hills tennis clubs will have no place to play when the weather doesn’t cooperate,” 13-year-old Kip Barlow said at the hearing.

North Deltan Diane Vass agreed. “I don’t think there’s a lot of things in Delta that bring it together,” she said. “This tennis facility is used by members of all three communities.”

Many requested Gateway Casinos and the Toigo family, who owns the Town & Country Inn site, provide a community amenity contribution to the city to build a new indoor tennis facility.

By 10 p.m. Tuesday night, only two thirds of the registered speakers had taken their turn at the podium to share their thoughts on the project.

Delta council voted to adjourn the public hearing until 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 2.

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.