A meeting with BC Lottery Corporation officials appears to have calmed fears of Cloverdale business leaders that a proposed South Surrey casino would “cannibalize” existing gaming business – for now, at least.
Brian Young, president of the Cloverdale and District Chamber of Commerce, told Black Press that Monday’s meeting – in which representatives met with BCLC’s vice-president of casino and community gaming Jim Lightbody and manager of public affairs Greg Walker – had provided assurances the planned casino would not offer competition to Cloverdale’s Fraser Downs Racetrack and Casino.
“It was a very good sales pitch,” Young said of BCLC’s position on the new casino, proposed as part of a 200-suite hotel and convention centre planned for 10 Avenue and 168 Street.
“The BCLC are claiming the casino proposal will not take away business from Fraser Downs, and they say they have the studies to prove it – and that’s great.”
However, Young issued a news release Tuesday on behalf of the chamber, noting that representatives still do not understand why the location of the new facility was chosen, “as it appears not to meet any of the criteria and is located very close to existing gaming facilities (within 15 minutes of three other facilities).”
But Young said the chamber is not interested in pursuing that issue, particularly in light of BCLC promises that it will continue to fully support Fraser Downs and that the new casino will draw from a different customer base.
“For us, all we’re concerned with is that Fraser Downs is the primary casino in Surrey, and they have assured us that it will be equal in size to the other one – which means it will be equal in profits.”
In his news release, Young said anticipated benefits to Surrey would be “substantial” – the total revenue from gaming will more than double, as Fraser Downs grows and the new facility opens.
Fears about the impact of the new casino on Fraser Downs’ business had led to an impassioned plea for support of the existing facility by chamber executive director Bill Reid at the June 30 Cloverdale BIA annual general meeting.
‘We’re not taking this lying down,” he said at that time, calling on stakeholders to be ready to march on city hall or BCLC offices.
At its last meeting, the chamber board voted unanimously to support Fraser Downs as the “primary gaming facility in Surrey.”
Cloverdale BIA president Lyle MacMillan also weighed in, saying in a letter to BCLC that his group’s board felt a destination casino in South Surrey would “cannibalize Fraser Down’s ability to survive in the marketplace.”
MacMillan is currently out of town, but Cloverdale BIA executive director Paul Orazietti – who has previously counselled caution until more facts were known about the South Surrey proposal – deferred to Young for comment on Monday’s meeting.
The Surrey Board of Trade and South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce have both voiced support for the South Surrey proposal.
– Alex Browne, Black Press