Jim Lightbody

Jim Lightbody

Casino crime fears a ‘myth,’ lottery spokesman says

Proponents of South Surrey casino project hold information meeting

The third public meeting in less than a week on a proposed casino in South Surrey heard reassurances about the potential for increased crime from a spokesman for the government body that regulates casinos.

“A lot of people have these myths about what happens in a casino,” said Jim Lightbody, B.C. Lottery Corporation’s (BCLC’s) vice-president of Casino and Community Gaming.

Lightbody was being interviewed by CTV News at a Wednesday night public information meeting organized by Gateway Casinos and Entertainment, the company that hopes to build a $100-million casino, hotel and convention centre complex at 10 Avenue and 168 Street.

Lightbody was reacting to comments from some residents who predicted the casino will bring money-laundering, loan-sharking, drug dealing and other crimes to the community.

“We have cameras, as you can understand, everywhere,” Lightbody said. “We have security everywhere.”

Gateway estimated 300-350 people attended the three-hour information meeting at Hazelmere Country Club.

“It was a valuable opportunity to solicit public feedback and get accurate information out about the proposed project,” Gateway general counsel James Chen said in an email to Peace Arch News Thursday.

“We understand that the proposed project won’t be supported by everyone in the community, but what we are looking forward to is the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with residents and concerned citizens about the project benefits, details and impact, and ensure that accurate information is getting out to the community.”

Chen added the feedback from the meeting will be included in a summary report submitted to the City of Surrey next week.

The two previous public forums, which were not arranged by Gateway, drew about 80 people to a Sunday afternoon hearing and around 60 to an early Wednesday morning meeting.

Artist's renderingThose events were organized by Susan Keeping, the BC NDP candidate for Surrey-White Rock, and were dominated by opponents of the project.

According to Gateway and BCLC projections, the complex would produce $6 million in revenues annually for the City of Surrey.

The facility would occupy 18 acres of a 25-acre site.

Preliminary designs call for a landscaped complex that includes a 60,000-sq.-ft. gaming floor, an 800-seat theatre, a 27,000-sq.-ft. convention and entertainment zone, a 200-room, four-star hotel, four restaurants and three lounges.

BCLC has suggested the casino, if approved by the city, could be open as soon as late 2014.

Another public forum, organized by casino opponents, will be held Wednesday, Nov. 14 at the Pacific Inn, 1160 King George Blvd., starting at 7 p.m.

The event is sponsored by the South Surrey Ratepayers Association, which says the mayors of White Rock, Surrey and representatives of the casino and BCLC have been invited to attend.

– with files from CTV News