I was first shown the blueprints to Gateway's proposed casino and entertainment complex over lunch at a Strawberry Hill Indian restaurant.
A few things about that particular lunch meeting were entirely predictable.
The butter chicken, as it perhaps is usually served to a white guy in a suit, was as expected - not too spicy.
The meeting also went as expected - as editor, the appeal was made to ensure accurate and fair coverage of the proposal.
But as I drove back to the newsroom after one too many spinach naans, I thought about the most predictable aspect of the proposal, which was yet to come - the public reaction.
I knew the project was going to get skewered - and I knew it would be for all the wrong reasons.
And sure enough, as the Now ramped up its coverage, so critics ramped up their opposition.
As healthy as it is to engage in debate about such an important project for Surrey, some of the objections to the gaming centre, proposed for a 25acre property at 168th Street and 10th Avenue, just don't make sense to me.
Like this objection from a resident, as reported in Thursday's Now:
"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? What about crime?"
I have a question or two, as well. When did casinos become so demonized?
When did we start equating gamblers with criminals?
Here's another objection from a White Rock resident, as reported in the Nov. 8 issue of the Now.
"Gambling changes your brain chemistry. I've seen friends and family lose their homes over this and I don't want to see that happen here," he said.
"It's mostly about the casino and destructive habits that follow or are created by the gaming industry," said another opponent of the casino.
There's no doubt problem gambling can wreck lives.
But if we use that argument, we should also shut down all liquor stores, bars and nightclubs so as not to tempt alcoholics.
And if you want to talk about something that wrecks lives, wastes money and "changes your brain chemistry," I sincerely hope none of the casino opponents smoke.
Here's another argument - some say the new casino would cannibalize Fraser Downs in Cloverdale.
I think they're wrong - Fraser Downs is too strong a player for BCLC to risk losing. Just moving the business from Cloverdale to South Surrey doesn't make sense if you're BCLC.
Another objection is location - but I truly believe in this regard, Gateway is damned if they do, damned if they don't.
Some say if such a casino should be built, it should go in Whalley, near SkyTrain.
But wouldn't that just open the proposal to even more criticism? Wouldn't a casino there be even more accessible to problem gamblers and low-income gamblers who can't afford to lose?
The south Surrey location, in my opinion, is the right one. But even then, Gateway is criticized. Residents have told the Now they are worried about the possible vulnerability of the senior citizens of White Rock and how some may be more inclined to gamble away their money if a casino was just a few blocks away.
See? Damned if you do... Look, I'm not a gambler - far from it.
My limited experience with casinos involves only a handful of lucky tosses at the craps table and a few good spins on machines decorated with either little green martians or unicorns (machines that I'm told don't even exist anymore).
But this proposal is about so much more than just a casino - it's about facilities that Surrey truly needs.
It's about live entertainment, a conference centre that will hold up to 1,000 people and a four-star hotel with more than 190 rooms in it.
It means not having to take your spouse out of Surrey to celebrate his or her birthday.
It means more jobs. It means the city would have a conference centre worthy of its population and size.
It means my band would have a new place to play.
And it means my wife and I would have a new place to go dancing (the Dublin may be getting sick of us).
By all means, let's have the discussion and talk about valid concerns.
But let's not demonize casinos - or the people who like to gamble - at the risk of missing out on a big-city opportunity.
Beau Simpson is editor of the Now. He can be reached at bsimpson@ thenownewspaper.com
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