RADIA: Casinos? Deal him in

FACE TO FACE: Are casinos good public policy for local & provincial governments?

For a variety of reasons, British Columbians don’t seem to like the idea of casinos in their neighbourhoods.

We saw that last week, when Surrey city council rejected a proposed $100-million mega-casino project.

Closer to home, we also saw that during the 2011 civic election, when residents of Port Moody were asked what they thought about having a casino in their city — 70% of those who voted said “No” (not that there was a proposal on the table for such a facility).

I think, however, that it’s an idea the city should reconsider.

The city of Coquitlam has had a casino since 2001 and has since collected about $80 million — equivalent to almost $2,000 per household — and 12.5% of that money goes to local non-profit groups while the balance is allocated to a municipal capital fund, which pays for roads, sports facilities and other city infrastructure.

The facility also includes a theatre, which hosts big-names acts and community groups alike. And, contrary to the fear mongers, the casino hasn’t devalued the surrounding neighbourhoods.

Why shouldn’t Port Moody or Port Coquitlam get in on this?

My colleague opposite doesn’t agree with the idea of casinos, which surprises me a little. Wasn’t it his NDP brethren who were handing out charity casino licences to their friends, insiders and deck-builders back in the 1990s?

The reality is that with all the federal and provincial downloading that has happened over the past several years, hamstrung municipal governments need businesses such as casinos to raise more revenue.

I am sensitive to the issue of problem gambling and I support the use of casino revenues to treat individuals inflicted with the addiction. But would opening a casino in Port Moody or Port Coquitlam actually exacerbate the problem? If somebody really wants to gamble they’re going to gamble whether it’s online, playing Keno or driving out to a casino in Richmond, Surrey, New Westminster, Vancouver, Burnaby, Langley or Coquitlam.

Besides, many of us enjoy the odd night out at a casino. According to expedia.ca, 43% of British Columbian travellers have visited Las Vegas.

Why not keep some of those gambling dollars right here in the Tri-Cities?

Andy Radia is a Coquitlam resident and political columnist who writes for Yahoo! Canada News and Vancouver View Magazine. He has been politically active in the Tri-Cities, having been involved with election campaigns at all three levels of government, including running for Coquitlam city council in 2005


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