American Casino Bankruptcies- In Response To Councillor Deal

On Monday I addressed Vancouver City Council during the third night of public hearings held to consider Paragon Gambling Corp’s massive megacasino proposed for downtown Vancouver. My presentation challenged some of the core economic assumptions the proponents have used in trying to sell their project to the city.

Councillor Deal asked for additional information in relation to my observation that approximately half of the casinos in the United States are in bankruptcy or receivership.

In response to the good councillor’s request, I spent a few hours perusing respected news journals, financial reports and court bankruptcy documents.  It is only partial and not meant to be comprehensive – I don’t have a city staff of 1000 to do my research – but it’s certainly representative. My brief research was limited to the past twelve months. There wasn’t time to include casino bankruptcies in 2009, a year that saw many others.

The result is a compilation of 50 major destination casinos across America that are in bankruptcy or receivership awash in billions of dollars of debt.

Unemployment in Las Vegas reached 15% last October and remains well above 13% today. And future prospects for the industry are worse, according to the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, who reported on February 8 that “he expects more casino bankruptcies in the stagnant economy.”

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Too Big To Fail?

Paragon’s River Cree Casino in downtown Edmonton, Alberta

Our paragon of a Premier and Paragon Gaming, a premier casino peddler, have decided to give Vancouver a great big gift!

If approved by City Council after public hearings this Thursday night, they will insert that huge gift-wrapped package right up Vancouver’s False Creek, depositing it right into the centre of our city.

It’s huge! It will be the largest casino in Western Canada, featuring more than 1,500 slot machines!

It will create jobs, we’re told! And provide buckets full of cash to local and provincial coffers!

Did I mention the jobs? Big jobs! Hundreds of them! Right here in the centre of our city! And in case I didn’t mention it, buckets full of cash for local and provincial coffers. What’s not to love?

Now, they say you should never look a gift horse in the mouth. So let’s just ignore the fact that the American company building this mega-casino in our city’s heart is not required to provide any local community amenities in violation of Vancouver development policy.

And we’ll ignore for now concerns about 25,000 of our fellow residents with compulsive gambling addictions. Next to a huge shiny new casino, those old bromides about being our brother’s keeper seem so old-fashioned, don’t they?

Did I mention the jobs?

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A Proposal To Green Creekside Park Tomorrow!

North East False Creek Development Sites

Last night, the City of Vancouver held public hearings on a proposal by Concord Pacific to develop Lot 5B West (see map to left).

The False Creek Residents Association brought out three dozen speakers from every neighbourhood in False Creek to speak to the amenity package proposed for that development. There were so many speakers that Council had to extend the hearing until 11pm, but still had to refer more than eighteen speakers to Monday night.

It was the position of the FCRA to reject the amenity package proposed for the development outright in favor of an amendment we submitted last night (see Amendment 4.6 below.)

9.06 acre Creekside Park promised to Vancouver in 1990

The amendment calls for immediate transfer of Creekside Park’s future home on Lot 9 from Concord to the province for $1, as will have to happen eventually; immediate greening of that site with a foot of soil covered with lawn; and relocation of all of Concord’s commercial activities (such as Cirque du Soleil, etc.) to their own commercially zoned 6c South.

My remarks to council follow, as does our suggested amendment. Please click here to view video of the hearing – my brief remarks begin at 3:08, and then questions from councillors continue until 3:32 pm.

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Public Forum on Casino February 9 @ Chinese Cultural Centre

UPDATED 2/4:  Now featuring keynote addresses by  renowned Vancouver Architect Bing Thom & BIV’s Peter Ladner! SAVE THE DATE! February 9, 7:00 pm at the Chinese Cultural Centre. Are you concerned about building the largest gambling casino in Western Canada … Read more…

(UPDATED) Why I Support Councillor Woodsworth’s Motion B6

Last night, February 1, Councillor Woodsworth’s motion passed with overwhelming support. There were a number of amendments and revisions and I’ll publish the final result as soon as it’s available.

But the result is unmistakable – a call for a review of gambling in the province and a refusal to rubber-stamp casino expansion until the contractual rights and interests of charities and non-profits to a share of gaming funds are protected.

When three of us first met last November to begin building opposition to this casino, we were told there was no point because the casino was a done deal, that whatever the Premier wanted, he got.

Last night, thanks to Councillor Woodsworth’s initiative, we played a small part in helping demonstrate Margaret Meade’s dictum in its purest form: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

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My Friendly Challenge to SFU Professors, Michael Harcourt & BCS

This week the professional staff of our City, the experts we’ve hired to advise us, produced a thorough, thought-through plan after three years of consultations and revisions under the rubric of Historic Area Height Review. Nonetheless, some of our city’s … Read more…

Guns, Gangs And Steel II (an update)

In December I wrote Guns, Gangs & Steel in response to the recent gangland-style shootout one block from our Mayor’s home. The purpose of that article was to draw attention to the danger of illegal weapons flooding into our province … Read more…

In Praise of Height And Density

Despite it’s sleepy reputation, Vancouver has always been a brash city of big dreams and rough ambition, a noisy, sprawling brat of a frontier town. It’s fitting we mark noon every day with the triumphal blast of a ship’s horn, … Read more…

Guns, Gangs And Steel

[First published in Vancouver Observer] Last Saturday night, just two weeks before Christmas, ten young people were gunned down on the streets of Vancouver just one block from where our Mayor and his family slept. Eight of the victims remain hospitalized … Read more…

College of Family Physicians Recognizes Sam Sullivan’s Work on Addiction & Homelessness

The College of Family Physicians of Canada is awarding former Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan an Honourary Membership, citing his work on behalf of “… the needs of the homeless and inner-city populations and programs for those battling drug and substance … Read more…