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Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce renews casino plea

Fraser Downs Racetrack and Casino is home to harness racing. - Leslie McKellar file photo
Fraser Downs Racetrack and Casino is home to harness racing.
— image credit: Leslie McKellar file photo

B.C. Lottery Corporation officials are  meeting with Cloverdale business leaders Monday to discuss local concerns over a South Surrey casino proposal that’s supposedly been green lighted.

Both the Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce and the Cloverdale Business Improvement Association are challenging  plans for a 200-suite hotel with convention centre and casino proposed for 10 Avenue and 168 Street, arguing Fraser Downs  Racetrack and Casino should be expanded instead.

On June 30, Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce executive director Bill Reid made an impassioned plea on behalf of Fraser Downs at the Cloverdale BIA annual general meeting.

“It’s going to take some effort on behalf of the business community and our supporters in Cloverdale to make a case for us protecting what we’ve got,” Reid said.

Reid wants assurance from the B.C. Lottery Corp. and city council – which would have to approve the new casino – to prove a destination casino in South Surrey won’t compete with – and cannibalize the profits of – Fraser Downs, which employs 600 people in the casino and along the backstretch and is the cornerstone of B.C.’s harness racing industry.

Reid hoped to set up a stakeholders group that could be galvanized to march on City Hall or the BCLC if necessary.

“We’re not taking this lying down,” he said. “We’re going to win this one. We need to win it, to be honest with you.”

The business groups have also requested a meeting with Surrey city council.

“I’m not a great fan of casinos, but on the other hand I’ve watched the one in Langley City really be an economic generator,” said Cloverdale BIA director Terry Lister. “There’s probably only room for one big facility in Surrey, and it’s already established.”

But this week fractures appeared in the common Cloverdale front. Cloverdale BIA executive director Paul Orazietti counseled caution, pointing to a number of outstanding factors that need to be considered.

As a result, Orazietti said he believes the application will be slowed down, and called lobbying efforts opposing the proposal “premature.”

He counseled caution until more details are known after the July 16 meeting. “There’s no need to get the placards and the pitchforks.”

Meanwhile, observers say a report on the future of B.C.’s horse racing industry is imminent, something that will factor into discussion around Fraser Downs.

Industry Management committee is expected to table its preliminary report on the future viability of horse racing.

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