A major development site in Mission plans to start up construction by early September, but it’s unclear whether or not the new casino will be there when it’s finished.
The commercial properties of Outlook Village – located along Lougheed Highway by Wren Street – were initially planned to be built around Gateway Casino and Entertainment’s expansion project to move and convert the Chances casino into a new Playtime Casino, according to Gord MacPherson, president of Elevate Development.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has struck casino operations particularly hard, and it’s not certain the new project will be feasible.
“In terms of the commercial [site], we already have enough commitments to move forward,” MacPherson said. “Gateway is obviously not in any position to move until we get this COVID thing figured out, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to deal on the rest of our site.”
In April, Dr. Bonnie Henry said that casinos, nightclubs and bars would be the last businesses able to reopen.
“I would have to be convinced that there is a valid reason and a safe way to do it,” she said. “We know that many of the people who frequent [casinos] are older people or people with underlying illnesses.”
Although Gateway has had to close their casinos across the country, MacPherson isn’t counting chips yet. He said Elevate is having ongoing conversations with the company and is “not actively pursuing anything else.”
“We’re not taking the position that Gateway is dead,” MacPherson said. “We are not in a position where we need to make a move on that component of our site. We can wait.”
Elevate Development can afford to wait because there is no mortgage on the property, there is no end date on delivery for the other groups on the site and the property has broad zoning regulations, MacPherson said.
“All this COVID thing has done for us is force us to revisit how we’re going to tackle the property,” he said. “It’s just going to be more of a phase project than when we had the casino.”
Construction was initially planned to begin in April, the “prime time to be building,” according to MacPherson. He said the later start will affect the speed at which the project is completed.
Gateway is unable to comment on any of their construction projects until the company has been allowed to resume operations across the country, said Tanya Gabara, the company’s director of public relations.
The Playtime Casino expansion was approved by the B.C. Lottery Corporation in late November, 2019. Gateway planned to invest $14 million in capital costs to create the new facility, and it was estimated to create around 100 new jobs in the area.