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Throwback: Saying no thanks to expanded gambling

The city during the casino application process said its preferred site offers excellent transportation accessibility and is already zoned for commercial tourism
delta casino photos
Delta’s submission to BCLC described the city’s desired casino facility as ‘a complete entertainment complex’ and that it would be ‘a tourist attraction that aligns with the objectives of Delta’s Tourism Strategy.’

Times and attitudes sure have changed when it comes to casinos.

The City of Delta in 2016 wasted no time in submitting to the BC Lottery Corporation an expression of interest to house a new casino.

In its expression of interest, Delta’s vision for a gaming facility was for as a “complete entertainment complex” that would include a hotel, conference centre and restaurant.

It was a far cry from the city’s attitude toward gambling in the late 1990s, when one had been pitched for the Tsawwassen First Nation.

Delta at the time conveyed opposition to a proposed destination casino and bingo facility at the First Nation, which would have partnered with Lady Luck Entertainment.

At that time, Coun. Bruce McDonald, who’s still on council, said they had always unanimously opposed the TFN’s plans to build a casino.

Council also warned it wouldn’t extend municipal services to any casino.

In 1996, the NDP government announced its expanded gambling initiative that called for destination casinos, slot machines and increased bet limits at charity casinos.

Coun. Krista Engelland responded, “‘The momentum in Delta has been ‘no’ to gambling. We’re still waiting for staff to bring back a bylaw amendment prohibiting Club Keno.’’

Other city councils at the time also didn’t like the idea of expanded gaming, including Coquitlam and Richmond.

Lou Sekora, who was Coquitlam’s mayor, said he was “totally opposed to any further expansion of gambling.”

In the late 1990s, Richmond council refused to allow Great Canadian Casino Company to relocate its tiny casino in the city to the much larger confines of the empty Bridgeport Market site.

The community was concerned about an expansion of gaming activities and wanted limits on the size of gaming facilities, said Greg Halsey-Brandt, Richmond’s mayor.

Both Coquitlam and Richmond eventually changed their tunes and large casinos are now a fact of life in those cities, as well as others.

Bucking the trend, somewhat, was Surrey, which had two gaming facilities.

Surrey a few years ago would have been home to a larger casino planned by Gateway, which wanted to shift its gambling licence from the Newton Bingo Hall to a proposed $100-million casino resort.

Surrey council defeated that application, a move that prompted BCLC, which was looking to expand gaming south of the Fraser and in the North Shore, to invite cities to submit expressions of interest.

That’s when Delta jumped in with an expression of interest.

The City of Surrey and TFN were also invited to make a submission.

Surrey however, said no.

Stating it wanted more information, the TFN’s submission did not have a location picked out. The First Nation stated it wanted more information, but also wanted to make it clear that there was no obligation by submitting an expression of interest.

The Delta submission was clearly much more eager with a location already chosen at the Town & Country site. BCLC initially preferred the city find another location, including one in North Delta, before agreeing to Delta’s chosen site.

At the city’s 2018 public hearing on the application, McDonald said Delta had originally rejected the idea of having a stand-alone casino, wanting a larger amenity to serve the community.

He also said the project has many supporters in Delta.

“I do understand that there are many people who for very valid reasons are opposed to gaming, but I don’t know of a pub in Delta that isn’t a mini casino,” he said.

Members of council and the public who supported the application also warned that the TFN could end up with a casino if Delta were to reject the proposal.

Fast forward to 2022 and Delta residents will be playing slots at the new Cascades Casino Delta this fall.

While no opening date has been announced, Gateway Casino & Entertainment Ltd. confirmed that it is anticipating that the new casino rapidly taking shape next to the interchange of highways 99 and 17A will have a grand opening later this year.

The $87 million casino/hotel complex will include a 40,000-square-foot gaming floor with approximately 500 slot machines, 18 live table games and four-to-six electronic table games based on game and terminal configuration for stadium-style gaming.

The facility won’t have a sportsbook but will have a Match Eatery & Public House, a buffet and Atlas Steak + Fish Restaurant.

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