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Casino supporter regrets backing Newton plan

Two 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 perform the upgrades.   - Evan Seal / The Leader
Two 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 perform the upgrades.
— image credit: Evan Seal / The Leader

She waited in Surrey council chambers until 1 a.m. to speak in favour of a casino in Newton.

It wasn’t an easy undertaking for Pat Cecchetto, who had recently undergone surgery to her right knee, which was throbbing by the end of the night.

But she stayed despite the knee pain because she thought the issue was important.

As a former employee in the not-for-profit sector (which relies on gaming revenues) and a community advocate, Cecchetto thought the Boardwalk Gaming plan for $25 million in improvements to the run-down Newton Mall was a great idea.

Council awarded the rezoning for the property, allowing 150 slot machines.

Two years later, the property still remains in a state of disrepair.

The Leader first reported Thursday that Boardwalk has sold the mall to Gateway Casino and Entertainment Ltd. With that sale went Boardwalk’s promise of significant improvements to the 7093 King George Blvd. property, work that included a new community policing office.

Surrey City Manager Murray Dinwoodie said that while Gateway isn’t beholden to fulfill Boardwalk’s promises, it would be good business to invest in the property.

Cecchetto (left) regrets supPat Cecchettoporting the project.

“I’m totally sorry,” Cecchetto said Friday. “I think it was wrong.”

She said the last thing that Newton needs is more gaming, and notes it’s those at the brink of poverty that will pay for the decision.

“I do believe they are the victims of this,” Cecchetto said.

Surrey council only found out last Monday that the property has switched hands, and at least one councillor said she’s not very happy about it.

“I am very annoyed and frustrated,” said Hepner, who supported the project two years ago when it passed on a five-to-four vote. “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.

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.

Calls to Gateway were not returned by The Leader’s press deadline Monday.

The talk down at the mall is development plans are underway, but the company is just waiting for approvals from the city.

Staff in Surrey’s Planning and Development Department said  there are no development permits in stream for that property.

kdiakiw@surreyleader.com

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