Delta’s casino is one step closer to approval, after council gave first and second reading to the proposed development on Monday, April 9.
“I haven’t decided one way or another,” Counc. Jeannie Kanakos said about the development. “I think it’s probably one of the more important decisions I would ever make in my 12 years as a councillor.
“There have been many who’ve said this is not in the Delta brand … We heard that lots. So I’m waiting to hear more at the public hearing.”
The casino proposal would see the redevelopment of the Town & Country Inn site off River Road and 60th Avenue in Ladner. The proposal includes an up-to-124-room hotel, two restaurants with outdoor patios, a buffet, meeting facilities and a six-storey gaming facility, with two storeys dedicated for 801 parking spots and 25 bicycle parking spots.
The look of the casino has evolved since its first application to council, and now includes a water feature at the front of the building, extensive landscaping of the site and the possible use of public art.
Delta’s casino would be considered a small- to medium-sized facility based on provincial standards. However, 10 per cent of the net gaming revenues would come to the city once the casino was up and running, the same as others in the province.
According to an estimate done by the B.C. Lottery Corporation, the proposed casino would bring in between $2.5 and $3 million in revenue to Delta each year. If the proposal is given final approval, the casino would be eligible for a tax exemption, meaning property tax would be frozen at the 2018 level of $157,000 for up to five years.
However, a staff report noted that this exemption is discretionary and would be “offset significantly by the future property taxes generated as a result of the new entertainment complex.”
The proposal has been in the works for more than a year. In November 2016, the B.C. Lottery Corporation announced that Delta would be the home of a new casino south of the Fraser River, as part of a relocation and expansion of Surrey’s Newton Community Gaming Centre.
In September 2017, the Town & Country Inn site was given preliminary approval as the site of the proposed casino. Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Ltd. submitted an application to rezone the property in November 2017.
Between November 2017 and February 2018, teh City of Delta and Gateway Casinos held a number of independent public information meetings and gathered feedback from the public.
In total, about 425 people attended the information meetings put on by the city. Overall, comments showed people were concerned about potential traffic problems, a possible increase in crime, money laundering and the impact on residents in the surrounding area.
A traffic impact study found that the current roads would be able to accommodate casino and hotel traffic, which would mostly occur outside of peak hours.
Residents also commented on potential social issues, such as gambling addiction.
“There is a whole issue relating to the social and health issues relating to casinos,” Kanakos said, noting that members of Fraser Health offered to come and discuss public health problems in relation to gaming facilities.
“I think information is power. I think it would be helpful to have the doctors come speak to us in a workshop. I think it would be helpful in this journey, for understanding the health implications of this kind of facility.”
Significant concerns were also raised about the loss of the indoor tennis courts at the Town & Country Inn site. More than 20 people wrote letters to the city about the potential loss of the courts, and the impact it would have on the tennis community in Delta and Surrey. Many of the writers wanted the city to require the Gateway Casinos to provide a community amenity contribution to replace the tennis facility.
“It has served as an important recreation facility,” Kanakos said. “I don’t think it’s good enough to say it’s in the private sector … I think we need to step up on that front and help out. But we need more information.”
Counc. Heather King asked for a list of tennis facilities in Delta, as well as ones that are lit at night, and who the loss of the court would impact. She suggested it might be possible to put a roof over an existing tennis facility, like the Delta Lacrosse Association did at one of their outdoor lacrosse fields.
The City of Richmond remains strongly opposed to a casino so close to the city borders, and the Semiahmoo First Nation also wrote to Delta to state its opposition to the project.
Mayor Lois Jackson noted that Richmond had “very interesting and scathing comments in some regard.” Delta had not received any further communication from Richmond after Delta’s response was sent two weeks ago.
The first and second readings for the proposal were approved unanimously by council on Monday, April 9, although council requested staff look into a number of questions about the proposal, including safety along the Millennium Trail in Ladner, a potential tennis facility, updated crime statistics around casinos, potential new jobs and where gaming revenues could potentially go in the municipality.
The casino proposal is set to go to a public hearing on May 1 at 6 p.m. at the Ladner Community Centre. After the public hearing, council will reconvene to discuss the public’s comments and give it third reading.
If it passes third reading, the application will be referred to BCLC and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for approval. If approved, it would go back to the city for final consideration and adoption.