With the denial of the South Surrey casino still fresh in the minds of many, the question of "what now?" is being asked around Surrey.
On the provincial level, it appears as if the decision means gaming in Surrey is done, said Jim Lightbody, vice president of casino and gaming for the British Columbia Lottery Corporation.
"This was a project that offered a lot to the city; however we appreciate the time and thoughtfulness of council and out of respect for their decision, we will not pursue further opportunities in the City of Surrey," said Lightbody in a statement.
For now, the gaming licence that would have allowed for the complex to be built in South Surrey will remain at a Newton bingo hall for the next 18 months, which allows for slot machines on the site.
According to Lightbody and many of the project's proponents, Surrey is in need of the amenities offered, which would have included a four-star hotel, a 27,000-square foot entertainment convention centre plus restaurants and lounges.
"We took great care not only to find a location in an area zoned for this kind of development, but also in working with the city throughout the process to develop a design that reflects Surrey's extraordinary growth and need for a facility that offers much-needed convention space and four star hotel, as well as a show theatre and modestly sized casino," said Lightbody.
However, Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, who cast the deciding vote following the public hearing noted that developers could still bring the same amenities to Surrey, as that had been the original plan for the site.
Referring back to the rezoning of the land back in 2010, Watts noted the architect for the site's original developer had said if a casino licence wasn't granted, they would just expand the convention centre to support trade shows and similar uses.
"So that commitment was made at the public hearing that this project was not predicated on a gaming licence so those are two totally separate components," said Watts. "They said (at the time) a casino would simply be icing on the cake but failure to get a casino from BCLC wouldn't be a dealbreaker."
Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, came out in strong support of the project alongside other local business groups and said she was disappointed by the decision. She noted the decision would likely make it more difficult for Surrey to attract future entertainment-based ventures.
"We have to work harder now on alternate business models to find a hotel and convention centre for Surrey and what that looks like at this point, I don't know but it's definitely going to be harder," she said. "This type of development is not going to come back to Surrey."
According to Huberman, in order for Surrey to become one of the largest cities in B.C., it's going to need something like the convention centre and hotel that the project had promised.
"The business model being proposed with this development worked in Richmond, worked in Coquitlam and would have been a design icon for creating Surrey as a destination," she said. "Now we just have to work harder to bring this type of facility, without gaming, which is obviously not supported, to Surrey."
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