Three of the region's biggest business associations came together Tuesday to throw their support behind the proposed South Surrey casino.
The Surrey Board of Trade, the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce and Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce held a press conference in support of the project, citing the need to further Surrey's growth with the entertainment aspects of the project.
"We're here to announce our sincere support from the business community," said Anita Huberman, CEO of the SBoT. "It is much more than a casino and this must really be recognized. Most notably, this features the following, 20,000 square feet of much-needed conference space."
Bill Reid, executive director of the CDCC, agreed.
"If there's ever been a weakness in our community, it's the opportunity for a major convention and entertainment complex for the southern portion of Surrey," said Reid.
Additionally, the business groups noted the project would go a long way in keeping the $80 million a year spent by Surrey residents on gaming within city boundaries.
Cliff Annable, executive director of the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce, said the project is a way to keep those dollars close to home.
"Each year, Surrey residents are spending approximately $(80) million on casinos outside of Surrey," said Annable.
"Of this, some $10 to $20 million is spent in the United States.
"This proposal will make it possible for Surrey residents to spend more of their entertainment dollars in Surrey."
Huberman pointed to Surrey's continued growth as another key reason for the project, saying it was infrastructure desperately needed for a city growing so quickly.
"(This will give us) the ability to host major events here in Surrey, which is going to be the largest city in B.C. in the next eight to 10 years," said Huberman.
Terry McNiece, president of the South Surrey Ratepayers Association and opponent to the casino said he was all for the entertainment and hotel portion of the project.
"We don't have a problem with (those aspects of) the project, go ahead and build it," he said. "If the business community is satisfied with what's proposed, that's their issue. We just don't want a casino."
As for the social concerns surrounding the project, such as a potential increase in crime and other illicit activities, Reid dismissed such notions and pointed to Cloverdale as a clear example of what residents could expect.
"We went through the same ritual when we approached the art community to support the addition of the Fraser Downs casino," said Reid.
"We can tell you that the addition of the casino has not created one issue with things like prostitutions, laundering of money, stabbings - that kind of stuff has not materialized in Cloverdale, and we can speak to that."
Tanya Gabara, community liaison for Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Limited, the group behind the project, said having the support of all three organizations was a "definite positive" for the proposal.
"We're thrilled to have the support of these three organizations," she said. "They represent thousands of employees and businesses across their jurisdictions and to have their support is just huge."
Finally, Annable urged council to move forward with the project when the gaming application comes up over the next few council meetings.
"Like Anita and Bill said, this is long overdue and we're all very much in support of this. We're looking forward to proceeding and we encourage council to support this," said Annable.