Critics of massive casino complex gather in Vancouver
Published Wednesday, February 9, 2011 6:09PM PST
Opponents of a giant casino complex proposed for downtown Vancouver are meeting to express concerns that the project will turn the city into another Las Vegas.
The $450-million, 680,000-square-foot project was announced by the B.C. government last year for the land between BC Place and the Cambie Street Bridge. Plans call for a 100,000-square-foot casino, two hotels and five restaurants.
The "Vancouver not Vegas" coalition is fighting the development, arguing that the casino is too much of a gamble. The group is holding a public forum at the Chinese Cultural Centre at 7 p.m. on Wednesday
"The lifeblood of organized crime is being able to launder money," said the coalition's Sandy Garossino,
"When you've got people coming in with half a million dollars in 20s in plastic bags and they're laundering it through casinos, that's exactly what's going on."
Pavco, the Crown corporation that manages BC Place, has signed a 70-year lease with Paragon Development Limited for the two acres of land directly west of the stadium.
The government argues that the complex will bring more money, tourists and jobs into the province.
"There's an opportunity to bring substantial investment to the City of Vancouver, along with thousands of jobs and additional jobs that are already there," said Rich Coleman, the minister responsible for gambling.
The existing Edgewater Casino supports about 800 jobs, while the new casino is expected to bring in about 1,700 jobs.
And Vancouver is predicting big profits -- revenue that would go straight to the city.
"The business plan that Paragon has presented to the city indicates that they project up to $17 million worth of revenue arising from gambling activities," said Mario Lee, the city's senior social planner.
But critics call that an empty promise.
"This casino will be sucking money out of downtown Chinatown. It'll be sucking money out of the Downtown Eastside. They'll eventually reach a point where it's no longer sustainable, they'll file and move on as these casinos have done repeatedly throughout the United States," said the coalition's Sean Bickerton.
The city will begin public hearings on the plans next week.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Norma Reid