Plans for a Newton casino are forging ahead and look even more ambitious than those previously considered by city council, Surrey’s mayor says.
The 7093 King George Blvd. property has had a long and troubled history. In 2009, Boardwalk Gaming promised a $25-million investment that would see a revitalized mall and community policing station in exchange for a lucrative zoning change that would allow slot machines at Newton Square Bingo Country. The rezoning was in violation of Surrey’s existing gaming policy, but it passed on a five-to-four vote.
Last June, Boardwalk flipped the property to Gateway Casinos and Entertainment, which now has the legal authority to fire up slot machines, but no obligation to invest the $25 million Boardwalk had promised.
Until now, very little work has been done except on the interior of the building, which Randy Sears, marketing officer for Gateway and executive manager for Starlight Casino, says has been extensive.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do on the building, so we’ve had some contractors in there, smartening the place up and re-doing the wiring and getting it up to code,” Sears told The Leader last week. He said nothing firm has been decided regarding more ambitious construction.
“We’re exploring all options, but we’re really not committing to anything at this time.”
However, Mayor Dianne Watts met with Gateway on Thursday to look at rough drawings of the plans to completely renovate the mall and casino.
“The architectural drawings are almost completed and by the looks of things, they will be redeveloping the entire site,” Watts said.
She said the Gateway plan is more ambitious that the one pitched by the previous owner.
“Boardwalk was just going to do some façade work on those old buildings,” Watts said. “Right now, they’re looking at redeveloping the (entire) mall.”
How soon the work will happen is as yet unclear.
“The architect’s drawings will be done in a couple of weeks,” Watts said, adding she’s happy to see it moving forward. “The redevelopment of that site is something we’ve wanted for quite some time.”
It’s believed the redevelopment plans could be before council in two to three months. Some have said it could be the site of Newton’s first mixed use highrise.
Other observers still would rather the area had no slot machines whatsoever.
“We’ve got enough problems without casinos in that area,” said resident Pat Cechetto. “It’s the poor people that are going to go there looking to make money.”
She believes the casino expansion will completely disrupt the welfare system, whose recipients’ will be losing their money in the gaming centre.