A Newton resident who rallied against the addition of slot machines to the Newton Square Bingo Hall thinks the city should invest revenues from the one-armed bandits into the most impoverished parts of the community.
Doug Elford, who has lived in the area for more than 25 years, said the money would best be spent on improving low-income housing and repairing properties surrounding the bingo hall. The city is expected to receive an estimated $2.25 million in revenue from the slots over their 18-month stay.
"That money should be invested into the immediate neighbourhood where it needs it the most," he said.
"It's rundown and needs help."
Elford, who ran for city council in 1999 and again in 2011, opposed the slot machines in his last council bid. Since city council approved the slots last Monday on a 6-3 vote, Elford fears the crime rate in the area will increase.
"We have a lot of people with addiction issues and people that are destitute already," he said. "Is there going to be more crime? Are people going to be more desperate? I'm sure they will be.
"I've had 18 bikes stolen in my 25 years in Surrey."
The corporate report that went before council recommended that revenues generated by the slot machines go toward enhancing the Newton Athletic Park and beautifying Newton Town Centre over the next two years. But Elford said other parks in Newton are in dire need of renovations.
"There's a lot of parks and services that require attention other than Newton Athletic," he said, noting that the bathrooms at Unwin Park are in a severe state of disrepair.
Elford also said putting some of that money toward adding a few police officers to the area would be a step in the right direction.
Coun. Tom Gill noted that Surrey is looking at adding 12 officers to its RCMP force and that residents from throughout the city will benefit from the investments in the nearby Newton Athletic Park and Newton Town Centre.
"We're looking to make some significant capital improvements, whether it's beautification or whether it's providing additional amenities, specifically in the town centres that are getting affected in the sense of where the gaming is going to be," he said. (See more on page 9).
Gill did acknowledge that repairing the area around the bingo hall would help alter the social issues in the neighbourhood.
"From my perspective, the redevelopment of that site is key," he said.
"Once you have redevelopment of that site, I think you'll have a different take of who's coming there, why they're coming there, what time they're coming there. I think that area will be entirely cleaned up once that site is redeveloped."
Following their stay at the bingo hall, the slot machines will move to Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Ltd.'s proposed casino in South Surrey at 10th Avenue and 168th Street, pending approval of the casino by city council.
Gateway will hold an open forum tomorrow (Wednesday, Nov. 7) to discuss the casino with the public. The forum will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Hazelmere Golf & Tennis Club, located at 18150 8th Ave.
Those who can't attend in person can submit feedback through talksouthsurreycasino.com, a website that will launch Wednesday at 6 p.m. in time for the meeting.