An open house set up to collect community feedback on a proposed South Surrey casino drew upwards of 350 people Wednesday night, bringing out a healthy mix of opponents, proponents and the undecided.
Hosted by Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Limited, the company behind the project, and held at the Hazelmere Golf and Tennis Club, the open house was a chance for stakeholders and the community to submit feedback to the City of Surrey.
The casino, proposed for a 25-acre property at 168th St. and 10th Ave., would feature a 60,000-square-foot gaming floor, a 27,000-square-foot conference space, a 190-room hotel and a five-story parkade.
It's a project that local resident Tiffany Lannerd would rather see built elsewhere, as the casino would back up right against their house.
"We're at 8th (Avenue) and 165th (Street)," said Lannerd, who's lived in the area for seven years. "So my biggest concern is that we're raising four-year-old and a one-year-old right now, what will this do to our community?"
According to Lannerd, she'd like to know what impact the casino would have on her community.
"Is there going to be light in my backyard 24 hours a day? Are my kids going to have a big light shining into their rooms now?" she asked. "What about crime?"
Lannerd also wondered about how badly the casino would affect the value of her property.
"How am I ever going to sell my house?" she said. "Who's going to want to buy my house with this being in their backyard? Had it been there when we were looking, we wouldn't have bought it."
For AimÃ©e Serenas, a former resident of White Rock, she's not opposed to the other amenities such as the hotel and conference centre, but is completely against the idea of a casino coming to the area.
"It's mostly about the casino and destructive habits that follow or are created by the gaming industry," she said.
At the open house, there were numerous signs up pointing out the economic community benefits of the project, something Serenas took exception to.
"It's a little irritating," she said. "They're try to say that it's okay to gamble because some of the money will go back into the community but that's just a way to make it seem like it's okay for some people to go in there and spend their money.
"If people really wanted their money to go to charitable events, there are much more fulfilling ways to do that."
However, while some were opposed to the project, there were also those in favour.
Tony Parkinson, a member of the Labourers Union said he's all for the casino, as it means more jobs for members of his trade.
"I think it's great. It's going to provide a lot of jobs to people in the area that need it," he said.
Along with the work it means for his industry, Parkinson said he thinks it would be good for keeping gamblers from going into the U.S. to game, and may even bring some Americans up north.
"I was just driving here and there was an ad on the radio for a casino just south of the border advertising here for people to come down there and gamble," he said. "Why not keep our people here and maybe even bring some them up here to keep the revenue for our province?"
Following Gateway's open house, the next step of the process is to present the feedback to Surrey Council and then bring forward a gaming application, if council so wishes.
According to Ron Hintsche, Surrey's manager of planning south, the gaming application is set to come before council on Nov. 26, at which time council will decide to move forward with the process.
"(Nov. 26) is simply to set up the next stage of the process, which would be the city's own public consultation," said Hintsche. "The city would be required to hold a public information meeting, which is tentatively set for Dec. 10."
The public information meeting would be the last opportunity for the public to have their say on the issue before council votes to finalize the project.
© Copyright 2013