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[Update] Surrey okays slots for Newton

Surrey is considering a proposal to allow slots at Bingo Country on a temporary basis. - Evan Seal/Photo
Surrey is considering a proposal to allow slots at Bingo Country on a temporary basis.
— image credit: Evan Seal/Photo

Surrey council has endorsed a plan to fire up 150 slot machines at a Newton bingo hall.

The highly contentious plan has been started and stalled several times in the past three years, with many civic officials saying most recently that the Newton site isn't appropriate for slots.

On Monday night, Surrey council received a corporate report requesting the temporary acitvation of slots at Bingo Country, at 7093 King George Blvd.

The slots would be activated for the year and a half, or when a casino is approved for South Surrey, whichever comes first.

The idea of slots at the Newton site has been rife with controversy.

The bingo hall rezoning, which was allowed at a contentious  five-to-four vote of council in 2009, was granted in part on the promise of a $25 million investment by the original applicant, Boardwalk Gaming.

Boardwalk sold the property to Gateway, releasing either party of the commitment for investment.

On May 30, The Leader broke the story that the city, Gateway Gaming and Entertainment and the provincial lottery corporation were working on plans to shut down a casino at 7093 King George Blvd. in Newton in favour of a $100 million yet-to-be built facility in South Surrey at 10 Avenue and 168 Street.

The corporate report before council Monday recommends allowing the slots, but indicates Surrey isn't willing to roll the dice on the Newton site, even in the short term.

Staff recommended conditions of approval include addressing community concerns, such as safety, promising to renovate the existing facility if council votes down the South Surrey site.

Council voted six to three to allow the slots at the Newton Bingo hall for 18 months.

Couns. Judy Villeneuve, Marvin Hunt and Barinder Rasode were opposed.

"I don't believe it is the site for slot machines," Rasode said before the meeting. "Even in the short term."

Only months ago, some city councillors said publicly they no longer wanted the Newton facility.

Mayor Dianne Watts told The Leader in May she wouldn't be heartbroken to see the facility leave Newton.

"I just think that the Newton site was not appropriate, and I know that many of us struggled with that site, but supported it because the non-profits were (previously) getting the dollars," Watts said at the time.

On Monday, she said there are still challenges with the site, but better opportunities are being presented.

"That's why it's only temporary," Watts said.

Twitter: @diakiw

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