Edgewater Casino gets extension

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Bob Mackin
Van. Courier

The Edgewater Casino will stay at the Plaza of Nations until the end of 2016. Photograph by: Dan Toulgoet , Vancouver Courier.

Edgewater Casino can stay at the Plaza of Nations until the end of 2016 after receiving unanimous approval Monday from the city’s Development Permit Board.

The Paragon Gaming-owned casino’s temporary use of the Enterprise Hall and 138 parking spots was to expire July 31. Edgewater opened Feb. 4, 2005 with a four-year sunset clause that was extended to 2013 after Las Vegas-headquartered Paragon bought the casino out of bankruptcy in 2006.

Paragon announced a deal with B.C. Pavilion Corporation in March 2010 to build a $450 million casino and hotel complex connected to B.C. Place Stadium’s west side. In April 2011, city council unanimously rejected the proposed expansion from 75 gambling tables to 150 and 600 slot machines to 1,500. In a compromise, Paragon was permitted to move the existing licence and received rezoning of the PavCo site in November 2011.

Last year, Edgewater extended its lease with Plaza of Nations landlord Canadian Metropolitan Properties until the end of 2015. The B.C. Place project is in limbo while Paragon seeks partners.

With no fanfare, Paragon and PavCo quietly launched a new website in June about the project called Site10a.com. The website said a new master development agreement was signed in March, before the provincial election, and that PavCo is expecting $3 million annual lease revenue for a 70-year term from the new Edgewater. The payments are intended to lessen PavCo’s debt for the $514 million B.C. Place renovations. The original lease was supposed to be worth $6 million a year.

The website contains no new architectural drawings or indication of whether the complex will be substantially smaller than originally planned.

“We’re not prepared to talk about that at all,” Paragon vice-president of planning John Cahill told the Courier Monday. “Today’s focus was getting the extension.”

Asked to confirm or deny whether one of the partners Paragon has approached is Burnaby-based Gateway Casinos, Cahill said. “I’m not going to talk about that at all, its not appropriate at this time.”

The only speaker at the meeting was Sandy Garossino, who led Vancouver Not Vegas’s successful 2011 anti-expansion campaign. She said Paragon, PavCo and B.C. Lottery Corporation owe the public answers on what is being proposed, including who would finance and operate the new Edgewater.

“All of those things are material and are in the public interest to know,” Garossino said. “I still think [Paragon president] Scott Menke was telling the truth when he said two years ago that this was an all or nothing deal, that the current amount of slot machines and gaming tables weren’t enough.”

Edgewater sent almost $6.1 million in royalties to city hall for the year ended March 31, 2013, substantially less than the $10 million to $12 million envisioned in 2006.

“I can’t imagine how they can increase their costs, bear the incredible infrastructure, build a parkade at the same amount of revenue,” Garossino said. “There has to be more and we’re not being told.”

Garossino said Vancouver Not Vegas is proceeding with its petition to the B.C. Supreme Court to quash the Edgewater move because it claims neither the city nor PavCo followed procedures.

While Paragon is in talks with partners to bring the new Edgewater to fruition, Menke and CEO Diana Bennett were contracted last month to manage the struggling Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Paragon is also exiting its River Cree Casino partnership with the Enoch Cree First in Edmonton. River Cree defaulted on a $111 million loan in April 2012 but continues to operate.

Early Jan. 20, Surrey City Council voted against Gateway’s proposal for a $100 million South Surrey casino. Gateway’s backer is Toronto private equity firm Catalyst Investment Group. When Deputy Premier Rich Coleman was also the gambling minister, he met Feb. 5 with Catalyst chairman Gabriel de Alba and Feb. 12 with de Alba and CEO Newton Glassman. Coleman’s agenda does not list the reasons for the meetings. Glassman did not respond to an interview request.

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