Despite strong opposition by anti-gaming groups, the Vancouver City Council voted to approve a rezoning that would allow the Edgewater casino to move from its former site to a planned hotel complex beside B.C. Place.
The matter, which has been debated for months, now allows the casino to move its operations on False Creek to a larger facility in downtown Vancouver. The project includes two hotel towers with 650 rooms and 1.2 million square feet of retail space. It doesn’t, however, allow for an increase in slots or table games. Council approved the development but restricted the casino size to 600 slot machines and 75 tables, the size of the current Edgewater license.
The controversial vote came amid a storm of protest, as the province’s leading anti-gaming group, Vancouver Not Vegas, insisted that the matter be open for public debate and not treated as a simple zoning procedure. The group filed a petition before the B.C. Supreme Court claiming that the move by Edgewater fell under the Gaming Control Act, and a full public hearing was required. They asked that the vote be delayed while the court considered the matter.
But it was not enough to delay the vote, with all but one city councilor approving the measure.
“Despite the protestations of various councilors, it’s clear that two football fields of casino floor has just been approved by this council,” said Vancouver Not Vegas co-founder and former mayoral candidate Sandy Garossino.
Council member Andrea Reimer, however, defended the action. “The motion that we passed was quite explicit that we will not entertain a proposal for expansion,” she said.
Reimer, along with other council members, claim that the approval was part of a commercial zoning procedure, and that any request by Edgewater to expand their gaming would have to go through a permit hearing.
If that happens, the casino may be in for a bigger fight. PavCo, the provincial Crown corporation, and Paragon Gaming, the owners of Edgewater, had originally wanted to create a mega-casino on the B.C. Place site that included 1,500 slot machines and 150 table games. That measure was shot down in April in a bitter and marathon council session that had both supporters and opponents weighing in.
Mayor Gregor Robertson has vowed to block any expanded gambling in Vancouver while he holds office.