The triple expansion and relocation across the street to BC Place of Vancouver, British Columbia’s Edgewater Casino by Paragon Gaming suddenly looks very iffy.
The first public hearings on the $500 million casino project last month were characterized by unruly anti-casino activists, who organized more effectively than casino proponents had been expecting. They fielded 150 speakers at the first hearing. Casino workers wearing T-shirts that read “Save Our Jobs” were also a strong presence.
Now both sides are organizing furiously for future public hearings. At least two more hearings are scheduled.
Many residents of the BC Place area said no one asked them ahead of time if they wanted a casino in their neighborhood. According to Patsy McMillan, president of the False Creek Residents Association, the first her group heard of the proposal was at a city planning meeting in 2009. They were appalled to see how Paragon’s plans had progressed. The company has still not met with the association, she said.
This prompted residents to organize. One union leader, who represents Edgewater’s workers, commented on the sudden change in public opinion.
“All of a sudden it’s totally changed,” she said. “I see there is a shift and, yes, it makes me more concerned than I was in November. Now all these people are jumping on the bandwagon to oppose this. It’s a do-or-die type of situation now.”
One job that the opposition to the casino sees ahead is to fight the supposition that jobs will be lost if the casino expansion doesn’t go forward. Sean Bickerton of “Vancouver Not Vegas” said his group doesn’t oppose relocating the casino, but it does oppose the scope of the expansion. He doesn’t oppose a casino of the same size as the existing one at that new location.
“I don’t believe they’ve made a solid business case. They say it’s profitable. If so, why would anyone want to shut that down?” he said, according to the Globe and Mail. He says he is encouraged because when his group began its opposition, they were told that the decision was a “done deal.” But on the first night of hearings, city council members were asking tough questions. He likes that.
The casino remains very profitable. Last year it generated $117 million in revenues.