Paragon Gaming’s casino proposal

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

12th & Cambie: PavCo likes Paragon

Mike Howell
Van. Courier

David Podmore, B.C. Pavilion Corporation chairperson, told a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon crowd he hopes city council will vote in favour of Paragon Gaming’s casino proposal. Photograph by: Rebecca Blissett, Vancouver Courier

Hey, city council–David Podmore really wants you to approve a mega casino proposed for the lands west of B.C. Place Stadium. This is hardly a surprising request. Podmore is the chairperson of the B.C. Pavilion Corporation, which is the provincial Crown body that operates the stadium and signed a 70-year lease in February 2010 with Paragon Gaming Inc. to build a 1,500-slot casino adjacent to the stadium. This is the same stadium undergoing a $563 million renovation, $240 million of which is to build the retractable roof. PavCo needs to find ways of paying down the debt. Enter Paragon, which has agreed to pay PavCo $6 million a year in lease payments, with the amount to increase after 10 years. “We are hoping, of course, that council will elect to support this project,” said Podmore during a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon Feb. 10 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. “It is very, very important certainly to the business case for B.C. Place and generates a good portion of the capital that will be used to retire the debt that was taken on to rebuild B.C. Place.” Paragon’s proposal, which includes two hotels, goes before city council Feb. 17 at a public hearing. With more than 50 people already on a list to speak, council is not expected to make a decision on the casino until the hearing resumes, possibly March 1. Paragon, which owns Edgewater Casino at the Plaza of Nations, wants to relocate next to B.C. Place and double its games tables from 75 to 150 and triple its slots from 520 to 1,500. It would be the biggest casino in Western Canada. As your faithful scribe has reported, there is plenty of opposition to the proposal. Even renowned architect Bing Thom has entered the fray, calling for a referendum on gaming expansion. Podmore has obviously been listening to what the critics are saying. “Just keep in mind as you hear over the next few days, it’s always easier to be the critic,” he told a room full of business types, which included members of the B.C. Lottery Corporation, developers and lawyers. “And you don’t have to be as sharp to be blunt. You don’t have to be as sharp in terms of the accuracy of your statements. But when you’re the proponent, you have to be accurate, you have to be truthful and you have to put a lot of hard work into presenting your proposal.” Podmore recalled that B.C. Place, Expo 86, the Olympics, rapid transit and the convention centre all had their critics when they were proposed. And guess what? “There’re very few people, if any, in the community that wouldn’t say that [the projects] made a major, major contribution to the positive development of Vancouver and the province of British Columbia.” Now it’s up to city council to decide whether a casino will make the same contribution to the city and province–the same city council, by the way, which is ruled by Mayor Gregor Robertson and his seven Vision Vancouver councillors. And Vision, by the way, is the same party that received sums totalling $13,000 from Concert Properties between February 2009 and June 2010, according to the party’s disclosure statements filed at city hall. Why is this relevant? Maybe it isn’t. Ask Podmore, he’s the chairman and chief executive officer of Concert Properties. © Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier

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