British Columbia

Vancouver mayor promises no gaming expansion

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson launched his re-election bid Wednesday morning by promising his council would put a moratorium on any gaming expansion in the next three years.

Gregor Robertson promises 3-year moratorium at launch of election campaign

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson officially launches his re-election campaign. (CBC)

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson launched his re-election bid Wednesday morning by promising his council would put a moratorium on any gaming expansion in the next three years.

"In a campaign, it is often just as important to say what you won’t do as it is to say what you will do — and Vision Vancouver won’t allow expanded gaming in our city," said Robertson.

"A Vision Vancouver city council will implement a comprehensive moratorium on the expansion of gambling in Vancouver, and we will continue to take a clear stand against the idea of a major destination mega-casino in the heart of our city’s dynamic downtown core."

The proposal for a hotel and casino destination in the city's downtown near BC Place stadium was announced last year and drew heavy public debate, with people vocally advocating for and against casino expansion.

Las Vegas-based Paragon Gaming planned to replace an existing casino near the stadium as part of a huge redevelopment of the area, which would also include a hotel.

The existing casino has 600 slot machines, and Paragon wanted to double that, as well as add 75 more gaming tables.

That plan was unanimously defeated by city council. The redevelopment project is expected to go ahead without the slot expansion.

Gaming expansion 'off the table'

Robertson made a similar pledge last spring after council rejected a $500-million expansion of the Edgewater Casino.

But now Robertson says councillors won't even consider casino proposals.

"This is going farther than what we said that we would do back in April. Today — we are saying that there will be no reviews or studies on expanded gambling. That is off the table," Robertson said.

"The Vision Vancouver team listened to the voices of citizens and community groups and hear overwhelming public opposition to expanded gambling."

Robertson also took aim at Non-Partisan Association (NPA) opponent Suzanne Anton.

Anton voted with Robertson to put a moratorium on the expansion project at BC Place stadium, but she has also criticized Robertson's handling of the matter.

"The NPA is unwilling or unable to take a coherent stand against massive gambling expansion in Vancouver despite a clear outcry from the public," said Vision City Council candidate Tony Tang.

"Voters can count on the Vision team to keep building a Vancouver economy that is renowned worldwide for being innovative, dynamic, creative and sustainable — a truly liveable city — and a downtown mega-casino simply does not fit with that economic vision."

Robertson said his council would also reject any plan to move slot machines from Hastings Park downtown.

Anton accuses Robertson of flip-flopping

Anton, meanwhile, shot back at Robertson Wednesday afternoon, accusing the mayor of flip-flopping.

Anton, who is currently a Vancouver city councillor, said she and the rest of council voted for a moratorium on the casino expansion project with conditions. It wasn't a vote to kill the project, she said.

"The conditions were ... the public had to agree, there had to be public acceptance ... and B.C. lotteries had to demonstrate security of the operations. Once those conditions were satisfied, said council, an application could come back to council," she said.

"Now what's Gregor doing? Is he saying he didn't believe in his own vote? He doesn't stand by his own vote?"

Shortly after Robertson released his platform statement, the Canadian Gaming Association issued a news release noting gaming is a growth industry fuelled by consumer demand.

The release said gaming accounts for 253,487 Canadian jobs.

However, a coalition of community and social groups formed Vancouver Not Vegas to oppose the casino.

Civic elections are being held throughout B.C. on Nov. 19.

With files from The Canadian Press