February is THE month for letting City Hall know how you feel about the Edgewater mega-casino in Vancouver.
The public hearings begin at City Hall on February 17. It is imperative that citizens show up to events – particularly the two events in darker red below – and write letters!
February 1, City Hall. Please come! Citizens can speak to Councillor Ellen Woodsworth’s motion to suspend the Edgewater rezoning/expansion application until the BC government lives up to its obligations to fund charities. PLEASE SHOW UP! Even if it’s only to sit in the gallery. The agenda for Feb.1 is here. The motion is last in the morning session so it will be late-ish. You can watch online to see how quickly the morning’s agenda is going.
February 8, City Hall’s information meeting. Location TBA, watch this space. City staff will present their Edgewater plans, and it’s likely that BC gov’t people, David Podmore of PavCo (BC Pavilion Co., the crown corp dealing with the stadium and other BC gov’t owned lands), Paragon and BC Lottery Corp people will be there, along with the CAW Union (Canadian Auto Workers union would have the contract for the casino jobs). It’s worth having citizens show up as well, to make their feelings known.
February 9, Public Forum , 7 pm WE NEED ALL CONCERNED VANCOUVER CITIZENS TO SHOW UP. The press will be there, and this will send a message to City Hall that Vancouverites have opinions about this casino plan. Event is organized by the Vancouver Not Vegas! Coalition (that’s us) at the Chinese Cultural Centre 50 E. Pender Street (two blocks W. of Main) Chinatown, Vancouver Stadium-Chinatown Skytrain Station February 10, Vancouver Board of Trade This is a registration-only event hosted by David Podmore of PavCo and Scott Menke of Paragon Gaming The Board of Trade is pro-casino. As is Tourism Vancouver, Concord, etc. They will all be in attendance.
February 17, Public Hearing on Edgewater Casino expansion and rezoning Sign up to speak at this! Or just come – we must fill the gallery. Sign-up info to come. City Hall Cambie Street & 12th Avenue, Vancouver
WHAT CAN YOU DO? 1. If we are going to defeat this casino, you must come out to these events! We need numbers. And sign up to speak at City Council on the 17th. 2. Crucial: everyone must write a letter. It takes less than 5 mins; we’ve done the work for you. 3. Sign the BCACG’s petition. It seems that City Council may be looking for a way to avoid this casino, and only enormous public involvement will give them the power to say no to this plan. Vancouverites should be able to decide what sort of city they want.
UPDATE: Councillor Woodsworth’s motion to Vancouver City Council was passed! The motion essentially calls for a postponement of gaming expansion in Vancouver until there’s been proper inquiry into gambling irregularities and cuts to charities, all of which have an impact on the City of Vancouver. The motion was finally presented to City Council at about 11 pm on Tuesday, January 18 in the Vancouver City Council chambers. After members of our coalition and others spoke in support of the motion, Coun. Woodsworth’s motion passed nearly unanimously.
**Please note that Woodsworth’s motion was amended slightly before being passed; the finalized motion is below.**
Note: When this motion was first introduced into Council in mid-January, many councillors did speak out against gambling or asked pointed questions. Some felt this marks a genuine change of heart in Vision and beyond; others claim it was merely political theatre on the part of Council, aimed at PavCo and Paragon Gaming as a way of extracting more concessions from them. Time will tell but two things are clear; strong public citizen opposition will be necessary if we are going to defeat this casino expansion; and that with that strong opposition, we can defeat this casino expansion.
Pete McMartin of the Vancouver Sun has been working on a superb series of articles about the BC Lottery Corporation, the planned Edgewater mega-casino, and the way the BC government has been leaving charities out to dry—the very charities used by the BC government to justify its massive gaming expansion.
We will keep updating this list of articles by McMartin, so check back regularly.
Testimony of Senator Susan Tucker at the Oct 2009 Hearings on Expanded Gambling in Massachusetts.
All of Senator Tucker’s arguments hold as true for Vancouver as they do for cities in Massachussetts. Tucker has worked on this issue for years. She was recently featured on CBS’ news program on gambling expansion in the US, which is also worth watching.
“[The casino industry] doesn’t work because it costs too much. The proponents throw out the $200 million number.
We need cost benefit numbers! We need to know how much the new bureaucracy is going to cost to enforce the new laws that our own Attorney General said we must have before we even consider casinos. Criminal activity laws, wire-tapping, money-laundering, new laws. Who’s going to be hired to audit and oversee the gambling? It’s a very expensive proposition. And the words and the money that gets thrown around here about what we’re losing to Connecticut, let me tell you, if every dollar that went down a Connecticut slot machine went down a Massachussetts slot machine, and we taxed them at the same percent, about 25%, Massachussetts would get a grand total of about $93 million. But the ten percent hit to the lottery [that casinos will bring] is $80 million dollars. It will cost us at least $30 million to set up a new bureaucracy – you’ve already spent the money!
The proponents do not have the numbers.
And we haven’t even addressed the addiction problem.
… [T]he problem is that a lot of people promoting this don’t understand what the new slot machines are, how they are designed, and what the industry does. Basically the machines are designed to see every customer as a potential addict. These machines are built with virtual real mapping to make people think they almost won, and to put people in a zone, similar to a drug zone, and this has been testified to by psychiatrists, by neurobiologists, by people who understand the nature of addiction. I object to the state partnering with an industry that makes its profit on addiction. I don’t think that is the job of the commonwealth of Massachussetts. We have choices about where we grow jobs in Massachussetts.
You think you have control over this industry. You don’t. Whatever you put in that bill to sell it to your colleagues, the deal will change within two or three years. Now how do I know this? Because it happens everywhere. The casinos come in; “Oh we won’t be predatory, we’ll put debt limits on so people can’t gamble more than $500 an hour.” Within two years those debt limits are gone. Why? “Oh, we can’t compete!” They negotiate for a lower tax rate than they come in promising, they change all the practices that you might try to put in to make them less predatory, they fight them, you can’t control it, you can’t control where they’re located. So I suggest to you that this is very, very dangerous, and bad timing in this economy to even consider this proposal.”
Spencer Chandra Herbert
Official Opposition Critic for Tourism, Culture, and the Arts
MLA, Vancouver West End
B.C. NDP CAUCUS
Jan. 9, 2011
B.C. LIBERALS MUST ANSWER ON SUBSIDIES FOR PROPOSED EDGEWATER CASINO EXPANSION – NDP
VANCOUVER — As residents of Vancouver prepare to formally weigh in on the proposed Edgewater casino expansion, the B.C. Liberal government must let the public know whether the casino is going to end up being subsidized by taxpayers even while gaming grants for community groups are being cut, the B.C. New Democrats say.
“The people of B.C. have every right to question whether the top priority for gaming revenue should be subsidizing private casino companies’ car parks and show lounges even while the B.C. Liberals are slashing funds for small charities that help seniors in need, youth engage through the arts, people learn to read, and adults with disabilities connect with their communities,” said New Democrat tourism and arts critic Spencer Chandra Herbert.
“British Columbians were told the proposed Edgewater casino expansion would pay for the $563 million B.C. Place roof project, but we now have to wonder if the public will actually be paying for the casino.The B.C. Liberals must tell the people of B.C. how much government revenue the proposed expanded Edgewater casino is eligible for, and justify why public money should be used to subsidize well-established private companies that are generating hundreds of millions in profits every year.”
Casinos can receive a subsidy amounting to three per cent of their net win in the form of a Facility Development Commission, which can be used for capital projects. An additional one-time subsidy, an Accelerated Facility Development Commission, can amount to an additional two per cent of a casino’s net win. Together, these subsidies have offset around 40 per cent of the capital costs of casino development in B.C. in recent years.
The proposed new Edgewater casino would have double the number of slot machines and table games compared to the current casino, and, if approved by Vancouver council, would be the largest casino in B.C. The expanded Edgewater would pay an expected $6 million a year in lease payments to the province.
While it is not known how much subsidies in FDCs and AFDCs the proposed casino would receive, Chandra Herbert pointed out that since the province estimates the new Edgewater will bring in $130 million per year in revenue, it can be estimated that the expanded casino could receive between $3.5 million and $6.5 million per year in subsidies.
“Casinos were welcomed into B.C. with the understanding that they would generate revenues for non-profits and charities. But under the B.C. Liberals, that social contract has been broken. Gaming grants are actually lower now than they were in the 1990s, even though revenues from gaming have increased dramatically.” said Chandra Herbert.
According to figures supplied to the Vancouver Sun by the B.C. Lottery Commission, casino operators received $40 million in FDCs in 2009-10, up from $16.5 million in 2001-02.
The B.C. New Democrats are advocating for open and transparent governance, including the separation of gaming policy and gaming enforcement in separate ministries, and a full restoration of gaming grants to charities.
Contact: Sara Goldvine 250-208-3560
Strathcona Residents’ Association
c/o 601 Keefer Street, Vancouver, BC, V6A 3V8
January 5, 2011
To The Mayor and City Council of Vancouver:
As Chair of The Strathcona Resident’s Association (SRA), I am writing to inform you that at our January 5, 2011 meeting:
The Strathcona Residents Association unanimously voted to oppose the expansion of the Edgewater Casino at BC Place Stadium in False Creek.
The SRA urges City Council to refuse to pass the B.C. Government’s application to expand gaming in the municipality, and to oppose the building of the Edgewater mega-casino.
Our reasons for opposition to the building of the expanded Edgewater casino include the following:
1. The planned casino is less than a ten minute walk from our neighbourhood. The well-documented crime that attends casinos, even in provinces with far better gambling regulation than that observed in British Columbia, is not welcome. Strathcona already suffers from crime levels far worse than most other districts. Our position is that situating a massive casino so close to the Downtown Eastside, with its pre-existing crime and policing troubles, is unwise to say the least. Recent news reports demonstrate that casinos provide easy access to money laundering for organized crime, and casinos always attract gang activity. We ask you to acknowledge the growing threat that gangs constitute to our communities.
2. The expanded casino will bring increased traffic to the tune of 300 cars per hour, which will negatively impact our community.
3. The BC government expanded gaming in this province on the back of support from charities who expected to be supported by gaming revenues. Charities have been radically cut away from these revenues. Our neighbourhood, like every other, derives important services from these charities. We see no benefit from expanded gaming in our community.
4. We are opposed to gambling and gambling expansion in general as it significantly increases social ills, something our community witnesses in graphic form daily.
Again, we urge you to decline the application for gaming expansion, and remind you that Strathcona’s opposition is strong and unanimous.
James C. Johnstone
Chairperson, Strathcona Residents’ Association
cc. Jenny Kwan, MLA
Libby Davies, MP