Surrey businesses raise stakes on casino
Citing concerns that $85 million in Surrey gaming revenue is leaving the province every year, three business organizations are lining up in support of a South Surrey casino.
"Of this, $10-to $20 million is spent in the United States (annually)," said Cliff Annable of the South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce. "This proposal will allow Surrey residents to spend more entertainment dollars in Surrey. Keeping those dollars close to home means more jobs and more benefit for the City of Surrey."
Annable, as well as the Surrey Board of Trade(SBOT) and the Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce (CDCC) held a news conference Tuesday to shoulder support for a $100-million casino and entertainment complex planned for an 18-acre parcel of land at 10 Avenue and 168 Street.
As host city, Surrey will receive an estimated $3 million annually in gaming revenue from the province.
But Anita Huberman, of the SBOT said it's not just about having a casino.
One of the most important things about the South Surrey Entertainment Centre, Huberman said, is that it's "multifaceted."
She noted that it will contain 27,000 square feet of "much-needed" conference space, as well as seating for meetings of up to 1,500, capacity for banquets for up to 1,000 and a 200-room four-star hotel.
"It is much more than a casino," Huberman said. "And this fact really must be recognized."
Bill Reid, from the Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce, said one of the "weaknesses" in the community is the availability of a major entertainment and convention centre.
He said he was pleased to join the other business groups in "encouraging the City of Surrey council to give this a thumbs up so we can get on with it."
As to the social impacts, such as gaming addiction and poverty, Huberman pointed out if this project passes, the slots at the Newton casino will be closed.
She said she's spoken with the police and some of the social service agencies to counter the types of issues around addiction.
"Market research has been done where that type of activity is minimal," Huberman said. "But you need to work collaboratively with the RCMP and social service agencies in order to alleviate and bring a solution to those types of issues."
Reid said since the addition of the slots at Fraser Downs, Cloverdale has seen very little increase in social problems.
"The addition of the casino in Cloverdale has not created one single issue around prostitution, laundering of money, stabbings in the parking lot," Reid said. "This stuff has not materialized in Cloverdale, we can speak to that."
About four casino opponents gathered outside the SBOT office, as they were not allowed into the event.
Terry McNeice questions the numbers regarding gaming revenue leaving the province.
He believes most people in Surrey go down to the U.S. for shopping and to stay overnight, and may gamble while there, but it's not their primary purpose for going.
Don Murray said the big winner in this deal is the province, which walks away with 65 per cent of the gaming revenues, much of which goes into general revenues.
McNeice is also concerned that a market assessment, traffic impact study and social impact study has not been made publie.
Surrey council will consider the proposal at a land use meeting at city hall on Dec. 10. The public meeting will be held on Jan. 14.