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Newton casino property 'flipped,' city says

Three years after Boardwalk Gaming was granted a controversial zoning change amid a pledge to undertake $25 million in upgrades to the rundown mall at 7093 King George Blvd., no improvements have taken place. The property has now been sold, and the new owner is under no obligation to do the upgrades. - Evan Seal / The Leader
Three years after Boardwalk Gaming was granted a controversial zoning change amid a pledge to undertake $25 million in upgrades to the rundown mall at 7093 King George Blvd., no improvements have taken place. The property has now been sold, and the new owner is under no obligation to do the upgrades.
— image credit: Evan Seal / The Leader

After winning approval for a mini-casino in Newton, Boardwalk Gaming has sold the property to another company, leaving Surrey council angered about failed promises for the property.

In 2009, Boardwalk promised a $25-million investment that would see a revitalized mall and community policing station at 7093 King George Blvd. in exchange for a lucrative zoning change that would allow slot machines at Newton Bingo Country. The rezoning was in violation of Surrey’s existing gaming policy, but it passed on a five-to-four vote.

Hundreds of supporters – mostly not-for-profit groups that rely on funding from gaming profits – came to a contentious, marathon public hearing. They were matched by passionate opponents to expanded gambling in Newton, who argued the area already had more than its share of crime, poverty and addiction.

The city now says Boardwalk "flipped" the property to Gateway Casino and Entertainment Ltd.

Michael Calpin, CFO for former owner Boardwalk Gaming, declined The Leader's request for comment. Asked who might be able to speak to it, Calpin said he doubted anyone with the company would talk publicly about it.

"It's not their practice, it's a private company here," Calpin said Wednesday from the Toronto office. "I would imagine they wouldn't comment on it to tell you the business."

Gateway is not required to fulfill the promises for improvements made by Boardwalk during the public hearing, but Surrey City Manager Murray Dinwoodie said it would make good business sense to invest in the property.

Coun. Linda Hepner is extremely upset at the turn of events.

"I am very annoyed and frustrated," said Hepner, who supported the project two years ago. "I put a lot of faith in what Boardwalk was telling us. We had a lot of opposition."

She believed some fairly large investment would have taken place on that property by now, but says nothing has happened except the installation of slot machines.

Adding to the frustration is that most of the not-for-profits that fought for the project had their gaming funds cut in 2009 amid the economic downturn, as the provincial government siphoned off funds for general revenue. (A review is currently under way as to how those funds should now be split with charities).

Hepner said if the casino project came before council now, it's unlikely it would pass.

"If it were in front of me today, I would not be supporting it," Hepner said.

Businesses in the mall were told some time ago renovations were on the way, and they told The Leader  they're getting sick and tired of waiting.

Nishaber Dhindsa sat in his office Wednesday, with wires hanging from ceiling tiles stained with watermarks.

"This mall is dying," Dhindsa said, adding he took over Accost Insurance in 2008. "If it keeps going the way it's going, we're going to have to look at moving."

The manager at Newton Bingo Country said she couldn't comment, and Gateway didn't return phone calls by Leader's press deadline Wednesday.

@diakiw

 

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