TFN doesn't have site picked for casino

First Nation expresses interest but doesn't include specifics in response to lottery corporation

They're interested but don't have anything specific in mind just yet.

That's essentially the response the B.C. Lottery Corporation received from the Tsawwassen First Nation when it confirmed it's interested in being a host community for a casino.

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This summer, the lottery corporation asked three local governments south of the Fraser River - Delta, the Tsawwassen First Nation and Surrey - if they were interested in playing host to a gaming facility.

Surrey declined but both the Corporation of Delta and the TFN submitted expressions of interest, which included answering a series of questions regarding community plans, zoning and whether the government would be able to amend any restrictions within six months. The TFN provided the Optimist with a copy of its submission, which states it has areas zoned for entertainment but those uses do not include a casino, so a rezoning would be required. It's the same answer provided in the Delta submission.

In 2012, the TFN government passed a zoning amendment to prohibit gaming facilities, which is why a rezoning is now required, while a longstanding stipulation in Delta's bylaws also prohibits casinos.

Both also answered they currently have no restrictions that would limit the number of slot machines or gaming tables in a future facility.

Unlike Delta's submission, which includes a potential location, the TFN didn't specify where a casino would be located as well as what the facility would look like. While CEO Tom McCarthy wrote it hasn't identified a specific site, speculation outside the First Nation is that a casino/hotel would be in proximity or tied to the destination shopping mall complex opening there early next month.

McCarthy also noted the TFN, which takes consultation with members seriously, wants to meet BCLC to get more information, including the process moving forward.

The Delta submission was fairly detailed as far as what the municipality envisions for a facility, describing it as "a complete entertainment complex, including a hotel, conference centre, and restaurants" and that the "complex would be a tourist attraction that aligns with the objectives of Delta's Tourism Strategy to increase visitor volumes and awareness about Delta as a tourist destination, while extending tourists' length of stay and spending."

The only viable site for the entertainment complex, according to the municipality, is the Delta Town Country Inn property at the junction of Highway 17A and 99.

"The 11-acre site is physically separate from Delta's residential communities, and offers excellent transportation accessibility to people from within and outside of Delta via major transportation corridors, including the replacement bridge for the George Massey Tunnel," the civic report states.

In a letter to Mayor Lois Jackson, property owner Ron Toigo expressed support for a casino, saying the site may be ideal.

BCLC says the expression of interest process is intended to be an initial step in gauging interest and does not constitute a commitment by BCLC or the local government.

BCLC estimates a host local government would receive between $1.5 million and $3 million annually. It seems a long way off from what the City of Richmond has been receiving from the River Rock, revenue that peaked at $21 million in 2014.

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