When you think of Vancouver, chances are that Vegas-style casino gambling isn’t the image that comes to mind. But that’s exactly what the western Canadian city in British Columbia has approved, as the city’s Development Permit Board approved a bill to put a luxury resort-casino next to the stadium known as BC Place.
Former Olympic Site
BC Place is perhaps best-known internationally as the Olympic Stadium for the 2010 Winter Olympics. These days, it’s been primarily used as the home stadium of both the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League and the Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer.
But the newly approved plan will now allow Paragon Gaming to build what’s being called an “urban resort” alongside the stadium. The facility – which is expected to cost $535 million (US$505 million) to complete – will feature not only a casino, but also two hotel towers, a conference center, and a number of restaurants and other amenities.
The casino that will go into the space won’t be a new one, however. Instead, the existing Edgewater Casino – currently located just across Pacific Boulevard from BC Place – will be moving into the new facility. The new venue will mean twice as much floor space for gambling when compared to the current facility at the Plaza of Nations.
More Space, Not More Gambling
But that won’t necessarily mean expanded gambling. When Vancouver first gave a preliminary approval to the proposed move two years ago, the city rejected any discussion about expanding the games that would be allowed at the new venue. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson reiterated that decision in a statement after this week’s development permit was approved, saying that the city intends to keep to their word, and that the casino’s license would still only allow for up to 600 slot machines and 75 table games, at an absolute maximum.
“Today’s decision by the Developmental Permit Board ensures that the proponent will have to align operations with the concerns raised in the recent Provincial Health Officer’s Report on Gambling,” Robertson said.
That said, several issues will still be taken into consideration before the city council and Vancouver’s director of planning will give the project its final approval. At a permit board hearing earlier this week, several issues were raised by members of the public, including the potential for gambling addiction. The city may limit the hours of operation of the casino, as well as the times during which alcohol may be served there.
Still, some locals are not convinced that the project is right for the city, with many wondering how a shiny new casino fits in with Vancouver’s Healthy City Strategy – a plan that “takes into account the social, economic, and ecological needs” of the city’s residents.
Rod MacDonald – president of the Vancouver Fire Fighters’ Union Local 18 – spoke as a former gambling addict at the hearing.
“The carnage that’s left behind when anybody is addicted to gambling is horrendous,” he said.
And a group known as “Vancouver not Vegas” opposes the new venue, with one member questioning the timing of the decision.
“Why is this being rushed through in the Christmas season?” asked Vancouver citizen Sandy Garossino. “The public is not being given the opportunity to be heard.”
If all goes to plan, Paragon hopes to open the new Edgewater Casino Resort in 2016.