Casino move, expansion approved by Mission council

Council votes 6-1 in favour of proposal, Chances still need final approval from the BCLC

Mission’s Chances Casino is another step closer to its goal to move and expand.

On Wednesday night after a public information session, Mission council voted 6-1 in favour of approving Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Ltd.’s proposal to relocate Chances Mission from 7178 Horne St. (beside Value Village) to 31831 Lougheed Hwy. (across from the Walmart) and to expand the gaming opportunities.

Only Coun. Danny Plecas voted against the proposal.

During the meeting, about 20 individuals voiced their opinions on the proposal. Many were positive, but several area residents raised concerns that included increased traffic, crime, money laundering, devalued properties, gambling addictions and the close proximity to a residential area.

One speaker asked why the district is so keen on allowing a larger casino.

“I’m puzzled because Mission has always been a very cautious kind of place about things like harm reduction and having marijuana dispensaries or anything like that in our community, to the point that we kept pharmacies out of downtown for a long time… but the idea of a casino and some of the problems that go with that … doesn’t seem to bother you. It just sort of strikes me as a double standard.”

Other speakers, many of them representing local non-profit groups – Mission Hospice Society, Mission Christmas Bureau, Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival and others – praised Chances for its community support and sponsorships.

In addition to those sponsorships, the district itself received approximately $690,000 in gaming revenue in 2017 and expects to receive slightly greater than $700,000 in 2018.

If the casino expands, gaming revenue could increase by approximately 50 per cent, according to staff projections.

Plecas, who voted against the proposal, said he was concerned people will be drawn to a new casino, adding that 11 per cent of people have a problem with gambling.

“My concern is people in Mission don’t have the level of disposable income that other people in other communities have.”

Mission Mayor Pam Alexis said, although she is not a gambler and has some concerns, she has heard from “a lot of people who really want this.”

“I’m in favour because I know it will keep dollars in Mission,” Alexis said.

Chances currently operates 125 slot machines, bingo and one electronic table and offers a small dining service within 16,000 square feet.

Gateway is proposing to move Chances to a new property – a proposed development at Lougheed Highway at Wren Street – that has received third reading for rezoning and is awaiting final reading from council.

The new gaming facility will have an area of 31,430 square feet with 21,430 square feet dedicated to gaming and 10,000 square feet to a restaurant and buffet.

The number of slot machines would increase from 125 to approximately 225 and electronic table games from the current one to three.

The report to council indicates that further expansion of the gaming experience, including live dealer tables, would likely occur over a three- to five-year period.

While council has given its consent to the move, the BC Lottery Corporation has the final say on the Gateway proposal.

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