BC Place casino fix, redux

A version of this story can be found on the Vancouver Observer

Pavco’s RFP process for the BC Place casino – owned in part by former BCLC chair T. Richard Turner – was  predetermined.

That’s been my conclusion about Paragon/PavCo’s proposal to dramatically expand the Edgewater Casino and relocate it in the new BC Place complex.

It’s a conclusion based on my review of city planning reports from 2008 that mysteriously proposed a zoning change in the NE False Creek Official Development Plan that permanently allowed a casino use on the BC Place site.

The planning process that led to the change was proposed and paid for by PavCo, after PavCo pitched then City Manager Judy Rogers in late 2007.

Prior to this report – passed by the NPA at the last council meeting before 2008’s civic election – Edgewater’s zoning was temporary.  The NPA/PavCo rezoning in 2008 changed all that and gave Paragon a leg up in any subsequent RFP process.

And now Paragon President Scott Menke has all but confirmed that.  In a Globe & Mail piece by Frances Bula today, Menke puts Paragon right in the middle of the City/Pavco sponsored rezoning process.

According to Bula “Paragon CEO Scott Menke said the company has no plans to give up on a casino in Vancouver if the expansion isn’t approved. But, he said, he has spent four years trying to get an approval to move across the street and expand.”

“Four years”.  That means Paragon began it’s move into BC Place in 2007 when PavCo first met with Judy Rogers at city hall to begin the rezoning process that ended up providing a permanent casino zoning on the BC Place lands.
Now we have a good idea where the mysterious casino rezoning proposal came from: Paragon, through a process instigated and partly paid for by PavCo.

Once the NPA signed that zoning change into law, the deal was done.  There was no other likely RFP winner.  As the holder of one of two gaming licenses in the city – the other is held by Hasting Racetrack – Paragon was the only proposal that could tap into the lucrative gaming market.

Menke’s partner Diane Bennett said as much when she told the Las Vegas Review Journal shortly after Premier Campbell announced the casino project in 2010.  “There were other bidders,” Bennett said, “but we had the casino license. Others could build a hotel, but no one could offer the economic impact that we could with our plans.”

The Pavco commissioned zoning process set up Paragon to win.  Too bad they don’t set up their slots to do the same for the lowly players.

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