By Chahira Zohra for the North Delta Reporter
Members of Delta’s business community got their chance to weigh in on plans for a casino in Ladner during a Delta Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week.
On Jan. 24, representatives from the B.C. Lottery Corporation (BCLC) and Gateway Casinos spoke about the proposed casino on the very spot it would be built, the Delta Town & Country Inn, to address community concerns brought up at the seven open houses Gateway conducted throughout Delta late last year, as well as to showcase the potential benefits to Deltans were the casino to be built.
“This is the first event the chamber has put on to see what the interest is,” chamber board chair Les Voros told the Reporter. “There’s about 50-55 people here today, more from the business-side of the community, so there’s certainly interest.”
Voros said the opening of Tsawwassen Mills in October 2016 created a vacuum of workers, which some community members are concerned could affect the casino.
Tanya Gabara, Gateway Casinos’ director of public relations, said the variety in positions and shifts will be appealing to community members, but the company will also be looking internally.
“I will say when we look to hire staff, we also have our internal talent to draw upon as well,” Gabara said during her presentation. “They’re not all going to come specifically from Delta. We are looking at the whole region when we do employ. We have a lot of employees that move around.”
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BCLC’s manager of stakeholder engagement, Chris Fairclough, said that the community could benefit directly from the project through repatriated funds.
“Last year, $96-million went into municipalities to spend on whatever they want to go spend those money on,” Fairclough told luncheon attendees. “For example, the Richmond Oval was fully paid for all with gaming dollars, no increase to any taxes or fees of the users or members of the community. Deltans helped pay for that by going to the River Rock and playing in Richmond.”
According to Fairclough, $35-million of those repatriated funds went through Gateway Casinos properties.
“It’s not just gambling. It’s not just entertainment. It’s the benefit that goes back to the communities,” Fairclough said.
Another major concern among Deltans was how the proposed development will affect community members who struggle with gambling addiction.
“British Columbia, through the Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch, offers a number of tactics of support in terms of protecting players. One is free community-based counselling services,” Fairclough explained. “Free community-based counselling services is any language, anywhere in the province for any length of time. So if you put your hand up and say, ‘I have a problem with gambling,’ you have resources available to you.”
In 2013, the BCLC and the provincial government donated $2-million to UBC to create the Centre for Gambling Research. Fairclough said their research has been used to create BCLC’s GameSense program, which aims to encourage responsible gaming.
Gabara says that if the casino is approved, the project website will remain functioning during construction for those who are interested in recruitment.