War of Words in Vancouver

Paragon Gaming says people are going to love its big new casino at B.C. Place. Casino opponents warn the relocation is an underhanded bid for expansion.

War of Words in Vancouver

Is the gaming cap negotiable?

Paragon Gaming President Scott Menke says a plan to relocate the company’s Edgewater casino in Vancouver to a new, larger location across the street will be “something the city will be proud of.”

Some are unconvinced, both by Menke’s glowing assessment and assurances from the provincial government that the larger casino will not add more slots or table games. Despite a gaming floor that will be twice the size of the existing casino?72,000 square feet versus 36,000?the government said the company must keep the gaming inventory at 600 slots and 75 tables. Paragon, based in Las Vegas, wanted 1,500 slot machines and 150 gaming tables.

Anti-casino activists call it a sneaky way to circumvent the law.

“With that much new floor space, what’s to stop the casino from moving in more slot machines and gaming tables later?” asked Sandy Garossino of the group Vancouver Not Vegas. “Their current square footage per slot machine is already at the highest ratio.”

The planned B.C. Place development, with a price tag of $535 million, is set to open in 2016. It will include two Marriott hotel towers, five restaurants, retail outlets, and 50,000 square feet of meeting space as well as the casino floor, reported the Province.

Menke is out to win over the naysayers, and says the new casino will “revitalize and enhance the city’s entertainment district. People are going to love it.”

He also sought to allay concerns about a future expansion. “City Council spoke. They said they didn’t want expanded gaming. We have respected that and they have respected us back.” He said Paragon has instituted a problem gambling program, and added, “It’s one of our highest priorities.”

Gambling researcher Robert Williams called that “window dressing. British Columbia has some of the least responsible gambling practices in North America.”