Whatever one feels about the Gateway casino/hotel/entertainment centre proposed for South Surrey – and whichever way our civic council’s vote goes – the project’s impact has already been felt.
Sadly for those who want time to stand still, the Semiahmoo Peninsula is on the threshold of inevitable change, and it’s evident there are deep divisions here that this project is bringing into focus. Those divisions will become more marked, as the Peninsula struggles to determine its destiny through development.
There are many opposed to a casino – no doubt the driving element of this proposition – on principle. They do not feel it is right, either ethically or morally, and some will cite first-hand experience with the true costs of gambling addiction.
Others are not so opposed to a casino on moral grounds – they just don’t want one, or the social problems they perceive will attend it, in their own backyard.
Others see the social effects as minimal, mitigated by the benefits of a big business and its customers in close proximity to their own businesses. More importantly than catering to gaming habitués, they feel, a convention/entertainment centre will bring valuable tourist dollars to the community at large.
No doubt the biggest bargaining chip for the casino is the $6 million revenue the BC Lottery Corporation estimates it will bring the City of Surrey annually. A row of extra zeroes has a way of making any budget look rosier.
Councillors, it seems, have a ready-made rationale for approving the suggested site – they all-but approved a similar development there once before, and the hotel/commercial land use has been identified in the Highway 99 Corridor Local Area Plan since February 2004.
While some may see no need for another casino, that’s not the case with the BCLC, which gladly provides statistics to prove this community is ‘underserved’ in terms of gaming entertainment.
And BCLC’s confident stance is bolstered by the fact it is a leading provider of what the B.C. government needs: money.
The bottom line is that the BCLC handed over some $1.1 billion to the province in the year 2011-2012. Even allowing for the 20 per cent turned back to charities and host communities, that’s still a chunk of cash for general revenue.
Perhaps the biggest gambling addict local casino opponents have to fear is the B.C. government itself.