If the proposed South Surrey gaming centre gets approved by council, the City of Surrey stands to make an estimated $6 million a year due to simply being a host city.
By now, the residents of South Surrey and the surrounding area have likely heard of the plan by the B.C. Lottery Corp. and Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Limited to build an entertainment-focused casino at 168th Street and 10th Avenue.
On Nov. 7, members of the public will be given the opportunity to express their views about the proposed project at an open house to be held at the Hazelmere Golf and Tennis Club.
Currently, Gateway is proposing to build a 60,000-square-foot gaming area, a 27,000-square-foot convention/entertainment centre, a 200-room four star hotel and several restaurants and lounges on the 25acre site, which will also provide parking for 1,200 guests. The gaming centre's focus would be on live entertainment and would house the Lower Mainland's largest convention space outside of Vancouver.
As a host city of the proposed casino, Surrey would be entitled to 10 per cent of the facility's net revenue, estimated at $60 million.
"We want to inform the public so they recognize what an asset this would be to the community," said Tanya Gabara, community liaison for Gateway. "During construction phase, there's going to be 1,200 jobs and we want to draw from the local community and local trades people and make sure that we're utilizing them."
Once the casino is open, Gabara said Gateway plans to staff it with roughly 500 employees, who she also hopes will come from the surrounding area.
"They'll be high-quality, well-paid jobs," she said. "We're going to employ local as much as we can. We want to create that partnership with the surrounding area."
For Cliff Annable, executive director of the South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce, that's music to his ears.
"We are 110 per cent in favour of it. I've been in this community for 25 years and I'd say it's probably the biggest thing for the community since sliced bread," he said.
According to Annable, the casino would finally provide a large-scale meeting place for the various organizations on this side of the Fraser River.
"An example would be for the Peace Arch Hospital gala that they have every year," said Annable. "In downtown Vancouver, (organizations) go to the Hyatt or a fancy hotel or meet in a convention centre and men and women are all dressed up in their evening gowns and tuxedos. Here, the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation has to go to a decorated Centennial Arena. It looks nice, but in downtown they have places like the Hyatt and here seating is limited."
In addition to the potential for local jobs and amenities, Gabara said the City of Surrey as well as the provincial and federal governments would stand to share roughly $22 million as a result of taxes from the construction phase, and $6 million annually once the site is open.
James Chen, general counsel for Gateway said the tax figures are all based on preliminary estimates and do not count the revenue derived from the site's other offerings such as restaurants, the hotel and the entertainment venue.
Chen also noted that the offerings of the site itself are something that's long overdue for Surrey.
"We've been working on this for a while," said Chen.
"There is gaming potential in Surrey that is uncaptured or going outside of Surrey and it really should stay within Surrey.
It generates revenue for the city, so why wouldn't we keep that here?"
According to numbers provided by Gateway, in 2011, only 22 per cent of Surrey residents spent their money at Surrey's only casino Fraser Downs in Cloverdale while 78 per cent went outside of Surrey to for their gaming, be it to Langley, Coquitlam or across the border. It's something Annable hopes to see change.
"We've had a lot of people going across the line or outside of the area. This way we can keep the dollars here and support the community," said Annable. "If we could start tomorrow we would be happy."
The public open house for Gateway's proposed gaming centre will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at the Hazelmere Golf and Tennis Club at 18150 8th Ave.
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