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Surrey casino, Chapter 3: Surrey councillors speak out about the botched process, why they supported a casino, and the tough conversations ahead for the Surrey First party

January 25th, 2013 · 31 Comments

And …. more fallout.

As some councillors noted, casino decisions really strain a marriage.

Here’s what they had to say. Story also attached below


Published Friday, Jan. 25, 2013 08:00AM EST

Last updated Friday, Jan. 25, 2013 01:46PM EST

The repercussions continue to spread from a divisive vote among Surrey councillors to reject a casino after council spent two years encouraging an application there.

The four Surrey councillors who voted in favour of the casino only to see the deciding vote from Mayor Dianne Watts defeat it 5-4 at 2 a.m. last Saturday, say the mayor never expressed any serious concerns about it in the previous months.

And they say Ms. Watts’s Surrey First party, which currently includes everyone on council, needs to talk about whether its members have common goals any more.

“We ran on over-riding principles. One was the economic well-being of the city. We now have to go back and reassess what our vision is as a group,” said Councillor Barinder Rasode.

In the meantime, Ms. Watts has issued an open letter saying the CEO of B.C. Lottery Corporation has “crossed the line” by criticizing her. Michael Graydon said publicly that he was disappointed that Ms. Watts is now saying she had concerns about the project months ago and that she should have been more transparent about them.

And Energy Minister Rich Coleman, who responded immediately after the decision by saying he had lost confidence in Surrey council and its ability to make a decision, issued a conciliatory news release late Thursday. In it, he said he appreciated the “time and thoughtfulness” council and the community took in examining the application.

But now four councillors – Ms. Rasode, Barbara Steele, Linda Hepner and Tom Gill – say they believed that the mayor, like them, thought the casino was in the best interests of the community. They said they were surprised when she voted no in the end.

At least one of them sees the mayor’s vote as her choice to take an easier path.

“When politicians are tasked to make responsible decisions for the community, it’s not about being popular,” said Ms. Rasode.

In a statement given to The Globe and Mail, the supporters noted the proposal was supposed to include a hotel and convention centre worth $110-million, another $130-million in tax and casino revenues directly to the city, and many other benefits.

Ms. Rasode said the province had also indicated that some of its share of the casino revenues could be used to help fund a homeless shelter and an autism centre.

The development was also in a place that the city itself had designated as a good location for the three casinos it had decided 10 years ago it would be willing to permit.

All of the four casino licence supporters said in interviews that Ms. Watts had let them know two years ago that Gateway Casinos was coming to city hall with the application and she wanted to know if any of them had any issues with it.

It was clear from the beginning that Councillor Marvin Hunt was opposed, but no one else was as firmly decided. B.C. Lottery Corporation and Gateway representatives were invited to meet with not just staff, but councillors, a number of times. Typically, only city staff deal with development applications.

But the mayor has made a name for herself in the Lower Mainland by reaching out personally to businesses and developers to encourage them to come to Surrey.

The four councillors said there were several “shirt-sleeve sessions,” advertised publicly, where lottery corporation officials and council met to refine the proposal.

“We negotiated all together,” said Ms. Hepner. “We kept bringing them back to the table and asking for more.”

Everyone knew there would be substantial opposition when the public hearing took place, but the sense among councillors was that most of their colleagues, and the mayor, were willing to make a decision they thought would benefit Surrey as a whole.

Various councillors asked for different improvements, including a bigger theatre, a more expensive project overall, and a high-quality hotel.

Ms. Hepner says now she thinks that unusual process was wrong because it gave the applicants such strong signals that the casino licence would be approved.

Ms. Steele said the mayor appeared to be positive all the way.

“I never heard her express doubt in the project at any time.”

Mr. Gill said what concerns him the most is that Surrey residents spend $200-million a year on gambling, with only $40-million of that staying in the city through other gaming facilities already there.

“We compete against other municipalities,” he said.

That money is now going to continue to flow out of the city, he said.

If the issue shows nothing else, said councillors, it’s that gambling is an issue that fractures councils.

Vancouver’s left-wing council, COPE, split over approving slots at Hastings Park and a casino near BC Place during its 2002-2005 term.

The Surrey council had an equally divided vote four years ago over whether to allow slots at a Newton community gaming facility.

It was 5-4. Several agreed with opponents who said that Newton, a low-income community with more than its share of social problems, should not also be saddled with gambling. Ms. Rasode, Mr. Hunt and two other councillors were opposed. Others were persuaded by the 4,000-name petition supporting it, along with those who said it helped raise money for community groups.

Ms. Watts cast a deciding vote to approve the slots.


Categories: Uncategorized

  • Bill Lee

    Do you post your filed copy, or copy as printed by Globe and Mail?
    Just wondering if there was more.

    And one can listen to Diane Watt’s wisdom on crime in cities and the Crime Capitol of Canada, Prince George, today on CBC DaybreakNorth
    From twitter Betsy Trumpener host of Daybreak North ‏
    This morning, advice from an ex-con and Surrey’s @MayorWatts for #PrinceGeorge, Canada’s so-called #crime capital #princegeorge #CBC

    860 AM, 91.5 FM in Prince George,
    Podcasts of some stuff at

  • teririch

    From speaking with various friends in Surrey, they too were shocked that Mayor Watts gave the deciding ‘No’ vote. They were under the understanding that it was more or less a sure thing.

    I see Langley is not entertaining the idea.

  • Richard

    More drama than even the Waldorf.

  • Bill Lee

    There are two “Langleys” The city has a casino and small convention centre, The township of Langley (Fort Langley on the Fraser to the border) doesn’t have a casino yet.
    Township looks down on the City. Taxes are lower in the Township and so on.

    By the way, there are two infographics side bars in the web story, only the Surrey economic pie-chart one made it into the newspaper print version.

    The second spending-by-lower-mainland-cities one was :

    First side bar was this:
    of the South Surrey Entertainment Complex,
    to the City of Surrey Municipal Goverment.

    Pie Chart
    Municipal tax impact of construction, 1 million
    Road and intersection upgrades, 2.5 million
    Estimated developer cost charges, 4 milion
    Offsite work paid for by Gateway, 8 million

    The whole 15.5 million ‘pie’ above was also shown
    as a small circle on the left, next to an
    8 times larger circle titled
    Estimated economic benefit over 20 years, 131 million

    So there you are, the titles, amounts, in CSV (comma
    separated variables to you can import into your
    spreadsheets and make your own pie-chart
    “source: Councillor Barinder Rasode, City of Surrey”

  • Bill Lee

    Oh Pshaw, here is the gambling “take” descriptions for the blind or No-Globe-Access persons.

    Casino “take” per adult in Vancouver Areas
    How much each adult, in different areas of Vancover is predicted to spend on gambling by 2014. The average casino “take” per adult projected by 2014 would be $638

    [ 2 colours: Yellow: Lowest Six Areas; Green: Highest Six Areas.
    Dots for Casino, Bingo Hall or existing CGC’s (Community Gaming Centres) ]

    Location titles on map (my description), Amount
    [ Ready for your CSV (comma-separated variable) inclusions to spreadsheets.]

    West Vancouver, $342
    Vancouver Northwest (Kits, UBC, north of 16th Ave), $371
    Vancouver East (East of Knight St. south of Venables, to Kingsway, $931
    Vancouver Southeast (East of Knight St. South of Kingsway to Fraser River), $948
    Burnaby Northwest (North of Loughheed West of Duthie), $894
    Burnaby Northeast (north of Lougheed West of North road), $444
    Port Moody Port Coquitlam (the latter south of Lougheed ), $706
    Coquitlam (city) Southwest, $805
    Richmond (including Sea Island), $1080
    Surrey West (around Newton to Delta border at 120th st on west on the east 152nd street South of 88th avenue ), $443
    Surrey East (East of 152nd street South of Fraser Highway to US Border east to Langley Township border at 196th street), $500
    White Rock, $515

    Casino, Bingo CGC dots at:
    Expo on False creek, Broadway and Cambie, PNE racetrack, Villa off Highway 401 in Burnaby, Something off Kingsway in Burnaby, Riverport in Richmond, Casino in Queensborough, Casino off 401 in Coquitlam near Port Mann, Maple Ridge downtown, Newton in Surrey, Fraser Highway and 196 street in Surrey, 164th street and 56th avenue in Surrey, Langley city,

    Drawn by [Caption]”Carrie Cockburn/Globe and Mail :: Research: Frances Bula, >> source HLT Advisory”

    Note: no colours (areas left gray) for North Vancouver, most of Vancouver city, South Burnaby, Delta, North Surrey, Langley City or Township, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, Anmore, Belcarra and north Coquitlams.

  • mezzanine

    IMO, If you had to have a casino in surrey, the south surrey site was quite strategic. It was right by Hwy99 just by the border, north of the exit to the truck crossing. It could have got a lot of casino traffic that would have went to Washington state casinos.

    Don’t like the fact that it was greenfield, but in a feasible walkshed from the 375 bus. A pedestrian overpass from KG boulevard would improve transit access greatly.

    IIRC, burnaby used part of its casino money for the central valley greenway, and will use it for other planned infrastructure, like a planned ped/bike overpass over Hwy1 at sperling. New West is using its casino money to help construct its new civic centre/office complex/theatre.

  • waltyss

    Gee, Bill Lee, do you also go into corner stores and steal stuff to give to people outside because, well, just because you can?
    Besides being morally répugnant, it means that people like me who pay for the paper end up having to pay more.

  • Hmm, I am not a media lawyer, but because the content is attributed and Bill isn’t getting paid for it, I wonder if the cut and paste counts as ‘fair use’?

  • F.H.Leghorn

    We certainly wouldn’t want to offend waltyss’ “morals”.
    How is what Bill Lee is doing any different than Frances posting her G&M pieces?

  • “How is what Bill Lee is doing any different than Frances posting her G&M pieces?”

    The author of the piece has more rights to re-publish than a third party and may well have permission to do so specified in their agreement with the publisher. I hope you are trolling and not really as stupid as the question you asked would suggest.

  • Terry M

    Thanks Bill Lee.
    Big deal.
    BTW for all interested parties, you can read it FREE if you have a VPL library Account in good standing!
    So Waltyss… Buzz off!

  • gman

    Thanks Bill Lee,
    The mountains of information you bring to us is always very much appreciated,keep up the great work.Too bad some people want to censor or control the conversation with what I would call threatening comments.

  • gman

    This is OT but I wanted to congratulate Mayor Rob Ford and the voters of Toronto on the recent court decision.

  • F.H.Leghorn

    Oh good. CK hopes I’m not stupid. How I wish I could say the same of him.
    People who want to control the behaviour of their fellow citizens (banning smoking or gambling or car ownership and on and on) start by trying to control the conversation, then they move on to calling for more enforcement by the thought police. Always excepting their own right thinking.

  • Please point out where I want to control anyone’s behaviour? You can’t. But it won’t stop you from making the same idiotic claim again and again. My hopes are dashed. Your played out way of thinking loses adherents by the moment. The danger of educating the masses. Sooner or later very few buy the junk philosophy you’re selling. Time to panic and spread misinformation I guess.

  • F.H.Leghorn

    Two words: bike lanes.

  • Uh-huh? What about them? The fact that they actually offer more transportation choice to individuals? Nobody’s talking about banning anything, except people such as yourself, who can be charitably referred to as ‘misrepresenting others’ position’. The more accurate descriptor however, would be un-principled liar. Rests on your conscience, not mine. I mostly feel sorry for you. Mostly.

  • Richard


    People who would rather use transit, walk or cycle are being forced to drive due to poor policies over the last several decades and continued lack of investment in sustainable transportation. Even worse, those who are unable to or can’t afford to drive are at a servere disadvantage in many communities.

  • Norman

    When the Newton slot parlour was approved, BCLC trotted out a lot of charities, implying that they would benefit. Now everyone knows better.

  • teririch

    @waltsyss #7 and Chris Keam #8:

    I am pretty sure the materials Bill Lee posted have been previously published and posted on-line – going back to when the casino debate took place in Vancouver.

  • Bill Lee

    @waltyss // Jan 26, 2013 at 11:52 pm #7
    and Chris Keam #8

    Obviously some didn’t read the on-line version of the latest Surrey Casino story, which Madame Bula published the full text.
    There were two infographics, one about the expenses of Surrey also in the print version story. (Yes I buy the paper for the scribbling-on-newsprint pleasure). The second infographic on the “take” was also posted on the on-line story.

    They were both “infoGRAPHICS” and couldn’t be cut-and-pasted. They were a single JPG file, no extractable words at all. And at the present this Salon Blog doesn’t allow posting of graphics, yet. Hopefully never, as I have seen wide and crazy entries when people can.

    I got out my supply of cat fur and ebony and glass rods and hand-carved each and every word from hand-made electrons by typing them in and adding descriptors to the arrangement of the elements of the two infographics’ images.

    You’re welcome.

    No one takes any interest in civic politics outside the quaint Village of Vancouver? So few comments as though people never get south of 12th Avenue.
    Anyone been to South Surrey and looked around on a sunny day?

    @Chris Keam
    (Don’t always rise to the bait of 2 wheels. Hold back and let the shout go by). Good boy.

    By the way, looking for more on “HLT advisory” reference in the second “take” infographic, I find a story, dated Thursday, Aug. 23 2012, 4:52 PM EDT
    , by Frances Bula from last year. The end of the article mentions, in text form, also an infographic?, the numbers above.

    Mobile versions are stripped down to just text and small logos usually.

  • waltyss

    @gman #12 Too bad some people want to censor or control the conversation with what I would call threatening comments.
    @Foghorn Leghorn # 14 then they move on to calling for more enforcement by the thought police.
    It is true that each of you “contribute” more than your fair share of really idiotic comments. However these 2 comments reach a new low, even for you (remarkable as that seems).
    Suggesting that reproducing content that you are not authorized to reproduce and which is not in the public domain is sterling, according to your shrivelled brains is “thought police”
    I guess the corner store owner who reports you to the police when you abscond with a magazine is also the thought police.
    I am not suggesting that you should not reproduce stuff in the public domain but when you do with stuff that is behind paywalls, that is stealing.
    Thank you, gman and Foghorn, for advocating theft.
    I does make clear that not only are you intellectually bankrupt but you are morally bankrupt as well.

  • @Bill:

    Point taken, but I’m not your dog or manservant and boyhood is but a memory. Skip the diminutive and the pat on the head OK?

  • F.H.Leghorn

    Yeah, leave that stuff to experts like Chris and waltyss. They do seem a bit touchy. Hard to know why.

  • Frank Ducote

    Bill@21 – apparently not that many people in Surrey care about a blog entitled State of Vancouver. Don’t know why.

  • I saw a documentary recently where the University of Chicago was reporting the same sort of activity in the human cortex from achieving monetary gains as from drugs and sex. Now, they were studying economics—not ‘gaming’—but the point is moot.

    Look, if we are going to regulate towers, etc., then we’re going to regulate gambling.

    I was never more impressed than when I walked into the casino in Monaco. Not an extravaganza by Las Vegas standards, to be sure, but what I took to be a reputable institution with a license to print money and a reputation that drew patrons from miles around and more.

    Richard makes a good point. We have a transit-friendly casino on the flight path to YVR. Why do we need another?

    Kudos, Mayor Watts.


    Attended the Norquay Open House over the weekend. Yikes! That one could go Learning From Monaco (not Las Vegas)!

    The 19th century main street in Monaco is amazing. About 50 feet wide, consistent streetwall height, platted to follow the contours of the hillside, and fully built out. The flanking streets cut against the grain of the site, up-hill or down. There were sufficient people living within easy walking distance to keep the levels of traffic workable. Whenever a view appeared it was breathtaking. But as often the sight of the street winding ahead was just as interesting. The mystery of the closed street end vista is always alluring.

    Norquay could be just as charming…

    Any neighbourhood that lies along the path of the Kingsway laid out by the Royal Engineers in the 1860s has plenty to brag about. There’s lots to discover after more than 7 decades of near total neglect of anything and everything not connected with driving.

  • babalu1

    Hey, where’s that erudite NPA troll, Glissy, when you need him?
    Get him out to Surrey!!!

  • Terry M

    Babalu1 @27
    Were you sober when you wrote that?

  • babalu1

    @Terry M


  • Michelle

    Nothing to read in here.
    Frances Bula Blog is getting classier and classier.

  • babalu1 #27
    You asked:
    “Hey, where’s that erudite NPA troll, Glissy, when you need him?”
    I say:
    “Well, ain’t that nice?”