Cloverdale Chamber, BIA still back controversial casino

Artist's rendering of the proposed South Surrey Entertainment Complex.
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Cloverdale’s business leaders publicly reaffirmed their support this week for a proposed South Surrey casino that’s at the centre of a fractious and lengthy debate still raging before Surrey city council.

Hundreds packed Surrey City Hall Monday to speak to Gateway Casino and Entertainment Ltd.’s controversial casino complex planned for 168 Street and 10 Avenue in South Surrey.

At 192, the list of speakers registered to speak to council was so long, the meeting finally had to be adjourned at 1:30 the next morning.

Council has called another meeting this Friday at 7 p.m. to hear from the other 120.

“We’re very much in support,” Cloverdale BIA executive director Paul Orazietti said, taking the floor at around 11 p.m., nearly three hours into the marathon session.

That stance puts the Cloverdale Chamber and BIA in the minority of those speaking before council Monday who were not from Gateway Casinos and Entertainment, which is proposing to move its gaming licence from 7093 King George Blvd. to a new facility that would include a 200-room four-star hotel, a 27,000-sq.-ft. convention and entertainment centre, and a 60,000-sq.-ft. gaming area.

The land has been zoned for a casino, but the proposal requires B.C. Lottery Corp. approval, which is contingent on Surrey council’s blessing.

Last month, the Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce and the Cloverdale BIA issued a joint statement in support of the $100 million proposal, a day ahead of their colleagues at the Surrey Board of Trade and at the White Rock/South Surrey Chamber of Commerce – both of which also spoke in favour of the project at Monday’s meeting.

The two Cloverdale business groups were initially opposed, Orazietti said, fearing negative impacts on Fraser Downs Racetrack and Casino, and, by extension, the Cloverdale economy.

But after meeting with B.C. Lottery Corp. and provincial government officials, the organizations said they were satisfied that Gateway’s plans will not be a detriment to Fraser Downs or the horse racing industry.

“My board has spent a great amount of time researching the subject because of the fear it would cannibalize the existing operation,” Orazietti said. “The business community of Cloverdale believes we can survive with this operation.”

Orazietti told Surrey city councillors he was also there to assuage fears that a new casino will be a magnet for crime.

Cloverdale has not seen a marked increase in crime because of the casino at Fraser Downs, he said.

“We suffer more from liquor establishments. There’s more organized crime there than at a casino,” he said.

“The casino experience I find is a two-way street,” he added. “They do very much give to the community.”

– With files from Kevin Diakiw, Black Press

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