BCLC’s Graydon Flips to Paragon

Casino critics and others see a possible conflict of interest as Michael Graydon, former CEO of the British Columbia Lottery Commission, takes over a proposed $535 million casino.

Michael Graydon, former CEO of the British Columbia Lottery Commission, has alarmed Canadian anti-gaming activists by signing on to run Paragon Gaming, the company now developing the controversial Edgewater Casino expansion.

On hearing the news, Vancouver Not Vegas co-founder Ian Pitfield told the Vancouver Observer, “It’s a grave concern that the BCLC, which oversees an industry requiring the highest standard of integrity and transparency, would permit a departure of this kind from expected ethical standards.”

Sandy Garossino, a representative of the same organization, said Graydon could be in violation of BCLC guidelines unless he disclosed his upcoming move to the board of directors. He added that if the board knew of Graydon’s planned defection, they should have prevented the move.

Paragon has raised concerns among casino critics by moving from its present location to one twice as large across the street. It’s barred from adding more gaming machines, and insists that it has no plan to increase the number of slots and tables. But casino opponents are skeptical.

“There’s some smoke-and-mirrors going on,” said Garossino. “Nobody builds that much extra space unless they already have some assurances in place.” Paragon’s director of strategic communications, Tamara Hicks, said the move was necessary because the old Edgewater casino tables were too crammed.

BCLC released a statement saying, “There are no provisions in public sector employment legislation or Mr. Graydon’s employment contract that would preclude him from working for PV Hospitality. Mr. Graydon provided working notice until March 31, 2014. BCLC made the decision that it would be in the best interests if he resigned from his duties immediately.” The statement added that Graydon’s confidentiality agreement will remain in effect, so he cannot share information from BCLC with colleagues in his new company.

“Michael Graydon is jumping right into a role where his inside knowledge could provide a huge benefit for a private company,” New Democratic Party gambling critic Shane Simpson told the Vancouver Sun. “Also, this is a new casino proposal that presumably BCLC has helped negotiate the terms for. The optics are terrible.

“We need complete transparency on this today if we don’t want British Columbians thinking the worst,” Simpson said.

PV Hospitality ULC, a newly formed partnership between affiliates of Paragon Gaming Inc. and 360 VOX Corporation, welcomed Graydon, who spent six years in his previous role. “With an exciting opportunity of growth ahead for our company, we believe his multi-faceted hospitality and marketing experience makes him the ideal fit for our team,” Ned Goodman, chairman of 360 VOX, said in a statement. “We are confident that his leadership and experience will add tremendous value as we execute on our strategic business plans.”

“I see this as a culmination of all I’ve achieved in my career, and am committed to help make PV Hospitality the world’s premier operator of destination resorts in North America,” said Graydon in a statement. “The company’s principals share my vision of creating special experiences for local and international guests; making significant and sustainable long-term contributions to the local economy and community; and providing new business opportunities with global impact wherever we operate.”