Top court won't hear appeal over slots at Hastings Park
Casino with 600 slots opens Friday amid opposition
A community group that fought the installation of slot machines at a Vancouver racetrack for the past four years has lost its bid to bring the matter before Canada's highest court.
The Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday refused to hear the case by Hastings Park Conservancy, which challenged the addition of 600 permanent slot machines at Hastings Racecourse through B.C. courts.
Vancouver city council voted in 2004 to approve the slots at the racetrack, located about four kilometres from downtown Vancouver. The move attracted widespread criticism from neighbourhood activists and anti-gambling advocates.
The city has allowed the racetrack to operate 150 slot machines on a temporary gaming floor under existing bylaws. The facility will open its new permanent casino Friday with 600 slot machines, a restaurant and lounge.
David Bornman, head of the Hastings Park Conservancy, said Thursday it was disappointing the Supreme Court would not hear their case.
"We have a cancerous casino in the neighbourhood with a long-term effect, and a court case would have been a short-term solution," he told CBC News.
A spokesman for the Great Canadian Gaming Corp., which runs the casino at the Hastings Racecourse adjacent to Hastings Park, said they're pleased with the court decision.
"We'd gone through a lengthy consultation process through open houses with the city and the residents," said Howard Blank, vice-president for media and entertainment.
"[We] did understand their concerns and did everything to mitigate their concerns, so we thought their actual case against the city was without merit," he said.
The conservancy's legal battle stemmed from its position that the racetrack was in the park area and so only the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation could approve the casino.
City council required the racetrack operator to improve Hastings Park when approving the 600 slots in 2004.
The conservancy said the park upgrading is far from complete and there has been no word on harm reduction so the deal should be overturned by the court.
Derek Creighton, the lawyer representing the group, said the Supreme Court would not hear the case likely because issues including the park board's jurisdiction and zoning laws were too localized and carried little national interest
"What is most disappointing to the residents of the area is that their own elected parks board failed to go into court and speak for the fact that they have exclusive jurisdiction over permanent parks," Creighton told CBC News.
Bornman said his group will continue to lobby the council and the park board to get rid of the casino.