Las Vegas company promises city $23 million a year

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Council yet to decide on Western Canada’s biggest casino

Mike Howell
Van. Courier

The Edgewater Casino, which opened in 2005, would close its operations and move into the new casino complex if the controversial casino plan is approved. Photograph by: Dan Toulgoet, Vancouver Courier

The gaming company proposing to build the biggest casino in Western Canada says the city will receive $23 million each year if city council approves the 1,500-slot facility next to B.C. Place Stadium.

The $23 million figure appeared Jan. 29 in an eight-page advertising supplement in the Vancouver Sun, which featured an update on the renovations to B.C. Place Stadium and highlighted its potential new neighbours.

“At the core is the new B.C. Place, along with new hotels, restaurants and an all new gaming facility,” the advertisement said. “Together, they will provide a new integrated destination entertainment complex for Vancouver, and will be a catalyst for the revitalization of Northeast False Creek.”

Las Vegas-based Paragon Development Ltd. is the proponent of the project. It currently operates Edgewater Casino at the Plaza of Nations. The proposal calls for Edgewater to close and Paragon to move its operations into the new complex, which will be attached to B.C. Place Stadium.

City council has to approve the proposal before it can go ahead.

The $23 million in revenue cited by Paragon in the advertisement was not contained in a city staff report that recently went before council, which referred the casino proposal to a Feb. 17 public hearing.

The staff report indicated the city could stand to collect $17 million a year, along with a $100,000 boost from Edgewater to an existing $200,000 a year “social responsibility fund.” Edgewater provides $7 million in profits each year to the city.

Tamara Hicks, director of corporate affairs and strategic communications for Paragon, said the projected $23 million annual payout to the city includes $17 million in casino profits and up to $5.5 million in property taxes.

“I don’t know why [city staff] didn’t include it, you’ll have to ask them,” Hicks told the Courier.

“Council knows this. We gave them the full economic report, so they have all that information.”

David McLellan, the city’s general manager of community services, said city staff stuck with the $17 million figure in the report because it is difficult to assess property tax values before a project is completed.

“We hardly ever factor in things like property tax because that’s an ongoing charge that everybody has,” McLellan said. “I wouldn’t hazard a guess, from my point of view, on what the property taxes would be.”

The Courier contacted Vision Vancouver councillors Geoff Meggs and Tim Stevenson and COPE Coun. David Cadman to seek comment about the money question. But the councillors said the city’s legal department has instructed them not to comment on Paragon’s proposal until the Feb. 17 public hearing.

COPE Coun. Ellen Woodsworth was to introduce a motion at Tuesday’s council meeting–after the Courier’s print deadline–related to gaming, including a call for a review of gaming in B.C. Speakers to the motion were warned in a memo from city clerk Marg Coulson to refrain from discussing matters related to Paragon’s proposal.

Hicks said Paragon’s plans to expand its operation–which could see its 75 games tables double to 150 and its 520 slots triple to 1,500 in the proposed complex–was always the intent of the company when it bought Edgewater for $43 million in 2006 from then-owners Gary Jackson and Len Libin.

If council approves the new casino, Paragon will pay landlords B.C. Pavilion Corporation–a provincial Crown corporation–$6 million per year (plus inflation) in lease revenue, which will go towards recovering the cost of the new retractable roof on B.C. Place.

The city will host a “gaming information session” Feb. 8 at the Roundhouse Community Centre from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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