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City gives early nod to slots

After a decade of opposing slot machines in the city, except for in destination casinos, Surrey council is endorsing a plan to put 150 one-armed bandits in a Newton bingo hall. - LEADER FILE PHOTO
After a decade of opposing slot machines in the city, except for in destination casinos, Surrey council is endorsing a plan to put 150 one-armed bandits in a Newton bingo hall.
— image credit: LEADER FILE PHOTO

A $25-million gaming centre complete with 150 slot machines is one step closer to reality as council gives early approval to a redevelopment plan for Newton’s bingo hall.

On Monday afternoon, Surrey council voted five-to-three to send Boardwalk Gaming and Entertainment Inc.’s plan for a “Community Gaming Centre” at 7093 King George Hwy. to staff in preparation for a public hearing.

For the last decade, Surrey council has strongly objected to any expanded gaming in the Newton area.

However, several councillors were enthused with the current plan.

“Under the B, bring it back,” said Coun. Linda Hepner. “This is an area of the city that we all know needs revitalization. I’d like to see more money invested, and $25 million certainly appeals to me.”

Coun. Judy Higginbotham was also pleased with the developer’s proposed investment in the property, which is home to the bingo hall, a thrift store, and retail services.

“I have passed that shopping centre for 30 years... and there really hasn’t been a lot of changes,” Higginbotham said. “If the investment is $25 million, I think that would make it go a long way to making it look better.

“And quite frankly, I think it’s Newton’s turn.”

Some councillors opposed the plan.

“How is it possible that you have to have slot machines to redevelop a mall?” Coun. Marvin Hunt said.

He pointed out to his colleagues that the application is in direct violation of the city’s gaming policy and a development with one-third the number of slots was rejected in October, 2006.

“I don’t think it’s any surprise I’m opposed to this,” Hunt said. “I would suggest you’re going to have to change the criteria of the gaming policy to make it fit.”

Through his work as pastor with Newton’s Bible Fellowship, Hunt has seen the effects on those “who are addicted to gambling, and who have destroyed their lives, the lives of their families and their spouses.”

Coun. Bob Bose noted the application isn’t even close to fitting within the city’s gaming policy, which limits expanded gaming to destination areas.

“This is not a destination resort, I don’t want to waste five minutes more of staff time on this application,” Bose said.

Coun. Judy Villeneuve also opposed the development. 

“I’ve seen a lot of development and redevelopment in this city, and none of them have been dependent on slot machines in order to make the financing work,” Villeneuve said.

Coun. Mary Martin absented herself due to conflict of interest because her husband owns shares in Great Canadian Casino, which operates slots in Cloverdale.

In the end, those opposed were out-voted by Mayor Dianne Watts and Couns. Higginbotham, Hepner, Tom Gill and Barbara Steele.

kdiakiw@surreyleader.com

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