British Columbia

Former officers slam Vancouver casino proposal

A group of former RCMP and Vancouver police officers are appealing to Vancouver City Council not to approve a massive casino project proposed for city's downtown.
The solicitor general is responding to concerns from former police officers about organized crime in casinos, the CBC's Tim Weekes reports 1:53

A group of former RCMP and Vancouver police officers are urging Vancouver city council not to approve a massive casino project proposed for the city's downtown.

The group, comprising 16 retired officers, a currently serving RCMP sergeant and a police psychologist, has written an open letter to council, which describes the planned relocation and expansion the Edgewater Casino as an invitation to increased criminal activity and gambling addiction.

The casino project is part of a $450-million hotel and entertainment complex envisioned for the property between BC Place Stadium and the Cambie Bridge.

The project was unveiled in March 2010, and developer Paragon Gaming Co., of Las Vegas, promises to create 1,000 jobs in the casino and the adjoining 500-room hotel.

But the officers' letter, released late Thursday, suggests the cost to society would far exceed the project's apparent value.

"Casinos … are well known for their vulnerability to the activities of gangs and organized crime," it states, citing money laundering, loan sharking, extortion and prostitution, as well as a "vulnerability to public corruption."

Addiction concerns

Addiction is also among the concerns the letter refers to.

"B.C. now has nearly as many severe gambling addicts as it does drug addicts," the letter says.

"There is no way to measure the social cost of this suffering on victims and their families." It also cites the costs to "health, policing criminal justice, social services and corrections systems as well as charitable service agencies."

Among the signatories to the letter are retired Assistant RCMP Commissioner Earl Moulton, retired Deputy Chief Constable Peter Ditchfield of the Organized Crime Agency of B.C., retired Insp. Keith Davidson of the RCMP Major Crime Section and current RCMP operational psychologist Dr. Teal Maedel.

The letter closes by saying, "We urge Vancouver City Council to vote against the expansion and relocation of the Edgewater Casino."

The council has already held heavily attended public hearings, which have heard from advocates  and opponents to the project.

Among those urging council to approve are some 200 staff members of the current Edgewater Casino, who say their livelihoods depend on the development proceeding.

It's not known when the issue will come to a vote.

David Podmore, chairman of the BC Pavilion Corp., landlord to BC Place Stadium and a proponent of the casino project, declined comment on the letter when contacted by CBC News Thursday night.