A sea of blue t-shirts with a large white YES printed on the back filled Surrey council chambers Monday afternoon, as supporters of a South Surrey casino complex showed council an upcoming hearing will be long and contentious.
At least two bus loads of staff and supporters of Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Ltd. attended the land use meeting at Surrey city hall.
Their attention was fixed on item nine – a plan to build a $100-million casino and entertainment complex on an 18-acre parcel of land at 10 Avenue and 168 Street.
The few dozen residents from that area who oppose the development showed up wearing buttons with the word "casino" circled in red with a line through it.
But they were completely overshadowed by the hundreds of young people sporting the shirts with the Gateway Casino logo on the front and text that stated: "More Entertainment=Strong Surrey."
Asked where she was from, one young woman said "Starlight," referring to the casino in New Westminster.
Council voted eight to one to forward the South Surrey proposal to a public meeting on Jan. 14. Only Coun. Marvin Hunt was opposed. A council vote on whether or not to recommend the site for a gaming licence to the B.C. Lottery Corp. is expected on Jan. 15.
In sending it forward, most councillors said they were "delighted" to see the turnout from the public and looked forward to hearing from them.
Peter Malowney, who has a farm just three kilometers away from the proposed site, said the development will turn the area into L.A. North.
He said it is the bleakest example of urban intrusion onto agricultural land.
Kathleen and Steven Arpink said they've sunk their life savings into their South Surrey property, and now their rural way of life is at risk with the potential for an upcoming casino.
At the end of the meeting, two charter buses loaded with Gateway staff and supporters and pulled away, westbound on Highway 10 toward Highway 91.
For those who can't attend the public meeting on Jan. 14, the meeting will be livestreamed on surrey.ca.