Pre zoned site:
One of the primary reasons for consideration of this application is derived from the fact that Council had zoned this site for building a casino back in 2010. Without the existence of an approved pre zoning, BCLC would not have even submitted the Casino License application.
(Under the Municipal Bylaws, it is the Land Use Rezoning Public Hearing where land use impacts of a proposal are to be discussed, debated and approved or not approved)
Gaming Policy Compliant:
Given that Council had already approved the casino land use for this site, BCLC’s license application became fully compliant with the Council’s Gaming Policy. At this stage, Council could still impose development related conditions but declining the casino license application may be viewed as Council “not acting reasonably or in good faith”.
The unique location of this Entertainment & Casino Complex makes it the most suitable site in the entire City of Surrey. The site is a relatively isolated location with ALR lands to the east and adjacent to Highway 99 thus creating NO IMPACTS on the existing residential neighborhoods. Yet, its close proximity to US border via Highway 99 and Highway 15 (176th street) makes it ideal for its commercial success with over 25,000 vehicles driving along this corridor. This is the only location in the entire City of Surrey which can draw from a huge US customer base and bring their tourist dollars to Surrey and Metro Vancouver. It should be noted that the proposed large scale Entertainment Center is fully in compliant with the City of Surrey’s 2004 Highway 99 Corridor Area Plan.
Opportunity for value added re-development of the entire catchment:
The scope and size of the proposed entertainment complex makes it a Destination attraction. With this being the first development in this area, it offers the City, its Citizens & Community a unique opportunity to create new, value added and suitable land uses in this catchment and shape the redevelopment of the broader catchment over the next decade of so. This unique and large investment along with the the engineering services (such as sanitary, storm, Water & road improvements) it will bring to the area can serve as a huge catalyst for value added renewal & re-development of this entire catchments.
Innovative Economic Boost:
The economic boost and the resulting financial benefits of this proposal to Surrey, the region and their respective governments are huge. Given the difficult times, these financial benefits, highlighted below, neither can nor should be ignored.
- Over 15 million dollars revenues to the City of Surrey resulting from the construction of this complex by way of DCC’s, off site engineering services, road improvements and city fees.
- Several thousand well paying construction jobs.
- A major tourism attraction in the City of Surrey without any tax payer dollars.
- Creation of a four star hotel along with a major Convention center & theatre without any tax payer dollars is a huge win for the City, its taxpayers and its communities. (Compare this to other cities including Vancouver where very large tax payer dollars, both capital and operating, are required to have a high end convention centre).
Additional ongoing financial benefits:
- The four star hotel and the large convention centre would create synergies to better position the City of Surrey to host regional, national and international events and tournaments.
- Additional revenues from slot machines from 15 to 25 % for horse racing which will benefit Surrey’s Fraser Downs.
- The City of Surrey would receive $3 million or more annually from the gaming operations and an additional $2 million dollars annually in the property taxes of this development. Based on conservative annual growth of around 2 %, this project would generate some $130 million dollars over 20 years for the City of Surrey.
- The proposal would create several hundred on going jobs in the City of Surrey.
- By any measure, the scope & size of the proposed Entertainment Complex offers a huge economic benefits to the city and its taxpayers.
Issue of negative casino impacts:
BCLC’s submission demonstrated that the rate of crime and problem gambling have NOT increased in any municipalities where they introduced casinos. As proof, BCLC refers to an independent study commissioned by the Province which measured crime in Surrey before and after Fraser Downs became a casino with no increase in crime. Similar observations were made in Langley City with the opening of Cascades Casino. Nevertheless, BCLC recognizes the potential for negative issues and have incorporated effective monitoring and corrective measures in the operation of the casino. It should be noted that Surrey’s own RCMP, upon their evaluation, have expressed no concerns in relation to public safety or even need for increased police resources in relation to casino operation.
An estimated $200 million dollars are being spent by Surrey residents in gambling activities. Currently, the City of Surrey is capturing some $40 million of this amount. In view of this reality, wouldn’t capturing more of Surrey resident gambling dollars by providing another choice be more practical.
It should be noted that a similar Casino may well be approved at the adjacent Semiamhoo Indian Reserve property which will have the similar negative issues. Yet, this will likely have no amenities and no financial gains for the City of Surrey. Looking to the future, this scenario needs to be carefully considered in the City of surrey’s decision this application.
Regarding the negative impacts, there was a new opportunity to deploy more comprehensive strategies to “best” manage these impacts. Perhaps this issue received little attention and priority. For example, given the scope and size of the entertainment complex, negotiations with BCLC may have enabled this particular Casino to be considered a Destination Casino. Under a Destination Casino designation , BCLC provides significantly more dollars both for the City and the community projects. These extra resources could go a long way in dealing with negative impacts as well as funding investment in the immediate community related to charitable and social programs.
Just about anything we do in life comes with risks and impacts. New and significant initiatives often bring even more risks and impacts. The responsibility of making decisions on public projects by elected public officials is a heavy task particularly when there is so much opposition and just as much support. It would be great if there was a computer model which will take all the input given to public officials, analyze it every which way and spit out the correct answer. But this is not available, at least for now.
The elected officials must evaluate all that is asked of them and then reach a decision. To this end, I, as one Councillor, have prepared the above summary to reconfirm my decision. In the end, I am comfortable that my “yes” decision was the right decision in achieving not just one City goal but helping achieve all City objectives as summarized above.
- Councillor Barinder Rasode
The above statement has also been endorsed by Councillors Tom Gill, Linda Hepner, and Barbara Steele. All four voted in support of the project.