For many big city’s around the world, the opportunity to host a new casino would at least pique the interest of community officials – especially tax collectors. But in Surrey, British Columbia, the idea was immediately rejected.
The British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) recently sent out a Request for Expression of Interest (REOI), seeking a suitable location to build a new casino gaming facility in the region south of the Fraser River. While most would consider Surrey to be an ideal location, city officials are adamant to the contrary.
The proposed facility would play host to a gaming centre complete with slot machines and table games. However, Surrey’s gaming policy, in effect since 2001, stipulates that, before any application for a new casino will even be considered, it must be part of a “cluster of facilities” designed to accommodate the gaming centre.
No Amenities – No New Casino
Without things like an accompanying hotel, restaurants and meeting/event space, Surrey has no interest in adding more gambling options to the city’s blueprint. That opinion was iterated by Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner at a city council meeting scheduled to discuss the topic Monday evening.
“It must be an entertainment complex if it appears in our city,” said Mayor Hepner.
Councillor Bruce Hayne reciprocated that sentiment. “If we are looking at entertaining the idea of another gaming facility, it would have to be destination gaming facility.” he said.
“The Request for Expressions of Interest from BCLC are for a community gaming centre and in my opinion, a community gaming centre sees money going out of the community where a destination-type facility with restaurants and other amenities would see a net flow of capital into the city,” Hayne explained.
The debate didn’t last long as Surrey officials agreed the new casino was a bad fit for their community, immediately rejecting the REOI.
2nd New Casino Rejected in Recent Years
The haste in which they responded this week was a severe contrast to a similar proposal from Gateway Casinos a few years ago, in which they sought to develop a $100 million destination casino in the city.
That proposal came with a variety of amenities, including a 60,000 square foot gaming floor, 190-room hotel and 27,000 square foot convention centre. It was projected that the facility would harvest $3 million a year in gaming revenue, but residents of Surrey turned out in droves to oppose the new casino, resulting in a public hearing that dragged on for a total of 13 hours. In the end, the council voted against the project by a narrow margin of 5-4.
Surrey Long Opposed to Slot Machines
Although Surrey is home to one resort-style gaming destination – Elements Casino in Cloverdale – it’s no secret that residents aren’t keen on expanding the city’s gambling offerings. In 1998, Surrey City Council went on a crusade to kick one slots operator out of town.
The Great Canadian Gaming Company (GCG) had been running a charity gaming facility in the neighborhood of Newton, and when the NDP government altered the gambling laws to allow slot machines in charitable gaming facilities, GCG wasted no time installing 191 slots in the Newton property.
In January of that year, at the demand of then-Mayor Doug McCallum, council members immediately went to work, proposing a plan to criminalize slot machines in Surrey based on an fundamental belief that they would proliferate problem gambling and draw more gambling-related crime to the area. By February 1998, the law was passed.