The City of Delta seems likely to get its own casino after the City Council gave the project a preliminary approval on Monday. The planned CA$70 million casino resort would create up to 700 new jobs and would bring in between $2.5 and $3 million in annual revenue to the city, according to the British Columbia Lottery Corporation. There are concerns, however, that the project may have a negative impact on City of Richmond and, most of all, on the River Rock Casino
Monday’s decision did not approve the construction of a casino in Delta. The City Council approved a rezoning application regarding the land where the complex would be built. The rezoning refers to the use of the land and giving it the thumbs up means that the parcel can be used for the development of a casino resort complete with meeting and entertainment space, restaurants and a hotel part. According to the proposal by Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Ltd., the complex would be built on an 11-acre parcel, more precisely on the current site of Delta Town & Country Inn off River Road and 60th Avenue in Ladner.
The project envisions a small to a medium-sized casino resort, based on provincial standards. It would have a 5-storey hotel with up to 124 rooms, as well as several bars and restaurants. The gambling venue would feature as many as 600 slots and 24 gaming tables, and in addition, there would be a large parking lot for around 800 vehicles. This would create approximately 500 jobs in construction, as well as up to 700 new jobs in various sectors in Delta.
The British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) estimates that the resort would contribute significantly to the local economy, filling city’s coffers with as much as $3 million each year. The actual figures, however, may be quite different. Local media outlets remind that the casino would be eligible for a tax exemption, which suggests that the property tax would remain the same for the next several years. This means that the casino could pay an annual tax of only $157,000 in the following five years. And the lower revenue for the city is just one of the many concerns expressed in the past few months by members of the public.
Is River Rock Casino and Resort at Risk?
The proposed casino in Delta is not welcomed by everyone and one of the first concerns that were raised by the people was the redevelopment of the current Town & Country Inn where the area’s only indoor tennis courts are located. Of course, some people warn about the potential risk of increasing the rates of gambling addictions which has been an issue in other parts of the province and the country. During several public meetings organized by the City Council and the developer, people also expressed their concern about an expected increase in crime and the risk of money being laundered through the casino.
In addition to all these issues, certain communities openly oppose the project. One of them is the Semiahmoo First Nation, located south of Delta, near the town of White Rock, which is around 30 km away from the proposed site of the casino. Even stronger opposition has been demonstrated by the City of Richmond, an island city only 13 km away from Delta across the Fraser River. Richmond is home to the province’s largest casino, the River Rock Casino and Resort, which would remain the biggest one even with the construction of the facility in Delta.
During the Delta Council meeting this week, however, city officials mentioned a report to them which includes correspondence from Richmond. There, Delta’s neighbours present their arguments against the proposed casino such as negative traffic impacts on Richmond roads and increased crime rates. In addition, the new facility would lead to increased money laundering operations and organized crime, Richmond’s officials believe. They do not mention the fact that the River Rock was actually where the huge money laundering scandal started. The only threat posed by a Delta gambling facility that seems reasonable is the threat to the revenues Richmond receives from River Rock Casino.
After the preliminary approval, the casino project goes to a public hearing, which will take place on May 1 at 6 p.m. at the Ladner Community Centre. Then, there will be a third reading in the City Council where the public’s comments will be discussed. If the project passes this level, it would then need permits from the BCLC and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.