In two weeks the City of Vancouver will hold a public hearing to consider a rezoning request for a casino, operated by Paragon Gaming, on the BC Place lands. The Paragon proposal is part of a redevelopment of BC Place launched by the BC government in the run-up to the 2009 provincial election.
It’s also a proposal that resembles BC Rail in more ways than you can count – a deal constructed in the backrooms that benefits a major Liberal Party funder using a process that appears to have been fixed from the get go. And the parties involved broke the rules to get to this place.
Where to start? There’s the impossibly down and dirty RFP process that violated every proposal call rule of thumb. Or, the re-zoning talks initiated by PavCo with the NPA council in 2007 that produced the mysterious insertion of a “major casino” in the area Development Plan.
But why not start at the beginning with the role of major BC Liberal donor T. Richard Turner.
Turner – as befits a big money man – was an early and important political appointee of the BC Liberal government, appointed chair of the BC Lottery Corporation in December 2001
Fast forward to sometime in 2003. Turner is approached by a US gaming company to become a partner in their Canadian operation. The company is privately held, so the partnership is by invitation rather than public share purchase. Which raises the question “why did a private US firm want the chair of BC’s Lottery Corporation to take a stake in their Canadian arm.” Aren’t relationships grand?
All this means by 2004 we have the Chair of the BC Lottery Corporation holding an interest in the Canadian arm of a US casino operation that later expanded into BC.
And that adds a lot more questions to the pile.
Lottery Board appointees are required to make several disclosures of their interests to ensure they are squeaky-clean. According to an FOI I received from the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, Mr. Turner did not register as an appointee to the Lottery Corp. board as required by the Gaming Control Act and it’s regulations.
Registration would have disclosed Turner’s interest in Paragon’s Alberta registered Canadian Arm. Instead that interest was kept secret for a year and a half after it was acquired.
According to a statement released to Public Eye by the BC Lottery Corporation Turner disclosed his Paragon shareholding to the corporation only in January 2005 – a year and a half after acquiring it. The Lottery Corporation did not reveal to Public Eye what triggered Turner’s late disclosure of this interest.
Here’s the issue this raises. Between 2003 and 2005 T. Richard Turner held an undisclosed interest in Paragon Gaming’s Canadian Arm. Sometime in 2005 Paragon decided to make a bid for the financially troubled Edgewater Casino. As a casino operator, Edgewater would have been obligated to provide the Lottery Corporation with its financial information from it’s inception in 2004. Turner, as Corporation chair, would have had access to at least some of that information.
It’s a classic material conflict of interest. In Ontario it’s illegal – Lottery Board appointees are specifically prohibited from such conflicts. In BC that pattern gets you appointed Chair of ICBC after you resign as Chair of BC Lottery Corporation in December 2005, a month after your company initiates its takeover of Vancouver’s major casino.
Disclosure: I know what I know about Edgewater in part because I worked for the former owners from 2003 to 2005.