Presentation to Vancouver City Council Hearing
Re: Expansion of Edgewater Casino.
by Amir Ali Alibhai
Alliance for Arts and Culture
Mayor and Council:
My Name is Amir Ali Alibhai and I am here representing the Board and members of the Greater Vancouver Alliance for Arts and Culture.
We are also members of a coalition of organizations that include, resident associations, churches, prominent citizens and which crosses all political, ethnic, age, and socio-economic lines.
I want to make it very clear that we are united in our absolute opposition to the expansion of Edgewater Casino.
We ask each of you to exercise your right and authority to deny permission for tripling the number of slot machines, and doubling the number of gaming tables as requested in this application.
I re-iterate my Board’s resolution that there be a moratorium on any gaming expansion until the issue of revenue shares for the non-profit and charitable sector is resolved and until some of the broader issues with public trust in the management and operations of public Gaming are addressed.
Enough is enough and in a break with our historical position, we will no longer support any further expansion of Gaming.
The Arts community and the charities and non-profits, represented by the BC Association for Charitable Gaming, first began raising awareness about the major expansion of Edgewater, buried in a rezoning application. We turned on the light and the public doesn’t like what they see; we don’t like what we see.
Over the past months, those initial conversations and meetings have grown into broad partnerships; many of us are here today. We have become aware of many different perspectives on this proposal and many more reasons to join together in opposition to the proposed expansion.
You will hear from others regarding the details, and I’m sure you have received a great deal of information about the unrealistic revenue projections, the questionable credibility and track-record of the proposed operator, the lack of third-party assessment, the failing North American casino industry, the considerable social damage and costs, the impact on the livability of surrounding neighbourhoods, the economic “black –hole” that this development may become in terms of local businesses, cultural events and organizations, and the dire implications for organized crime and increased policing costs. But we also feel that the public disclosure and due diligence and process that should have been exercised around so contentious and potentially impactful a decision has not properly taken place, until now, the 11th hour.
In February, you passed an important motion recognizing the need for a full review of public gaming in this province and which called for the Auditor General to investigate and review the BC government’s obligations to charities and non-profits. You also affirmed the inherent and contractual rights and interests of charities and non-profits to gaming proceeds. Remember that motion as you consider the proposal before you.
This is admittedly not the City’s project, but only the City has the power to say no to expanded gambling.
After passing that motion almost unanimously, why are the Arts still here, opposing the expansion of Edgewater? We are receiving a strong message from the majority of our members who are strongly opposed to the expansion of Edgewater in our City. Contrary to what some may believe, artists, creators, and cultural workers are part of our communities and our concerns do extend beyond our own sector’s self-interests.
Many artists are here tonight to stand up for our City and its vision to be a creative, green, livable, diverse, and beautiful city. We want a city that is well planned, economically and environmentally sustainable, compassionate, socially cohesive, and that expresses its identity through its built and natural environments.
The largest destination casino in Western Canada plonked down in our downtown core is not part of that vision. We don’t believe it is part of your vision either.
If nothing else, the arts are about articulating, creating and expressing our City’s identity. In what way is this development compatible with our City’s vision of itself?
Another significant role of the arts is to engage in critical reflection and to be politically vocal. Art is a powerful tool for positive social change. We support our partners and colleagues that oppose this expansion; we stand with our fellow citizens.
We are also here to support you. Ultimately we are here to encourage each and every one of the councillors that sits in these chambers, individually, to make the decision that you know you should.
We will support you in doing so. Thank you.