City staff against casino move to Versatile - Kamloops This Week
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City staff against casino move to Versatile

City staff against casino move to Versatile

City staff are encouraging Kamloops city council to reject Gateway Casino’s bid to build an expanded casino in the former Rona building in Versatile, arguing it will weaken the downtown core.

In a report council will debate on Tuesday, July 29, the city’s planning department points to Kamloops’ official community plan (KAMPLAN) and city-centre plan as reasons to keep the casino downtown.

“General planning philosophy accepts that strong downtown centres help create a sense of place and community focus,” the report states, noting both plans stake out downtown as “one of the primary commercial and cultural centres in the city.”

In an unusual move, Gateway purchased the Rona property at 1555 Versatile Dr. from the hardware company without waiting to see if the city would approve the necessary zoning changes. The property is presently zoned for shopping centre use. The city does not designate land for casino use except on a case-by-case basis.

If council chooses to ignore staff’s recommendation, it would next consider rezoning the Rona at a public hearing at a later date.

That’s Coun. Pat Wallace’s preference.

“I’m always reluctant not to take something to a public hearing and air it well,” she said. “Because there’s not just KAMPLAN involved. There’s a lot of money with a casino.”

Casinos pay 10 per cent of their net gaming revenue to host municipalities.

In 2013, Kamloops picked up more than $1.8 million from Lake City.

CEO Tony Santo told KTW earlier this year the company plans to convert the former big-box store into a $34-million casino featuring restaurants and pubs, a 500-seat amphitheatre, 600 slot machines and 20 gaming tables.

The new casino would be rebranded from Cascades Casino and Santo estimated it would create 110 new jobs.

“We’re confident that the city and community will be onside,” Santo said when questioned about the company’s decision to purchase the building in advance of a zoning decision. “As you know, Kamloops hosts the head office of the BCLC [B.C. Lottery Corporation] and we would like to build a facility that warrants that type of exposure.”

Gateway held a series of open houses at the Versatile site earlier this year, which appeared to attract mainly supportive community members.

Mayor Peter Milobar has also spoken in favour of Gateway’s expansion plans, telling KTW in April he’s been pushing for a better class of casino for five years — provided a casino is an appropriate use for the former Rona site.

City staff did give council one argument in favour of the relocation bid — the site’s current designation as a shopping centre.

“Shopping-centre categories permit a wide range of retail, personal service, and entertainment uses,” the report notes.

“The role of casinos in general is shifting to entertainment designations with multiple complementary uses, such as hotels, restaurants, and live entertainment.”

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16 comments

  1. Since a casino is a bit on the “dark side” of community endeavors it is probably best, in my opinion, confined away from the cultural center of the city. The impact on the social fabric may actually be an improvement.

  2. The only thing killing the downtown core is the lack of parking,….

  3. I recognize that L. Piroddi probably wrote an excellent report on this matter, a report that is unavailable to the taxpayer, and that the report was signed off by her bosses at city hall. Secondly, I appreciate the fact that we have been haunted by the Kamplan for years. We are also aware that the Kamplan is adjusted when the need arises. Finally, if our city hall decides to strong-arm Garden City into having a casino in the downtown core, where there is no parking to speak of, then maybe Garden City Casino and Entertainment will move to a centre where they are wanted. One has to wonder whether the KBB is worried that they will lose contact with the sacred cash cow called the Rocky Mountaineer. Good election issue.

  4. I think it would be a great move! More space, lots of parking, and the possibility of an entertainment venue. Do not let a bunch of City Staff control free enterprise..Not everything has to follow the Kamplan, businesses have the right to move and expand. The Casino is still within City Limits..so no big loss, they could relocate on reserve land..lots of room there.

    • Exactly. A fresh new venue that offers quality dining and live entertainment is someplace I would spend the occasional evening, and I’m sure there are many others who feel the same.

  5. If They Want To Pull Up Stakes On The Downtown & Move To The Very Outskirts Of Town , Let Em , It’s A Dumb Idea , But Let Em…

  6. Hopefully council does not listen to city staff who are obviously biased to this business. More entertainment venues up the hill is badly needed.

  7. The square footage and high ceilings at the old Rona building would make an exciting, open, casino atmosphere. I personally love the ideas they are throwing around of including a 500 seat amphitheater and nice restaurant. It could potentially boost casino revenue and the city’s share thereof.

    I think it is incumbent upon the City staff to propose some meaningful alternatives for the current downtown casino space should it move to Rona as it sounds like at least some councillors favour the change. CoK staff are right to some degree: the casino in its current location brings people to the downtown core, but so would another social-oriented business – maybe a premier gentlemen’s club or conference centre for Hotel 540?

  8. In the last 3 years city council has agreed with everything that came from the mouths at city hall. I guess they need to take an opposite opinion once or twice every term.

  9. Let them move! The downtown core is dying because IT’S DOWNTOWN. There’s no good parking, merchandise is craptastic (seriously, if it wasn’t for the farmer’s market, I’d never go downtown) and no one drives reasonably.

    @Lyman Duffman, if you’ve ever stepped foot in a casino, you’d know that moving a casino has little effect on the ‘social fabric’ of the community. The community is already full of degenerates. At least this way, the money can make it to something that does improve the rest of non-degenerative community.

  10. I would listen carefully to what city staff has to say regarding the downtown core. I don’t know how accurate their assessment is, but the dowbtown core can always use improvement. We do not want it to decline. All one has to do is look at the core of Prince George. Outside of the downtown eastside of Vancouver, I don’t know of a dumpier, more rundown town core the likes of PG.
    I DO NOT want Kamloops to look like Prince George
    We have got to plan carefully to protect and improve the downtown. If that means keeping the casino, then so be it.

  11. My only concern with this move would be traffic issues at the Versatile/Hugh Allan intersection (trying to turn east onto Hugh Allan might become more problematic). Other than that, the only other viable place for the casino would be a new building on the North shore, which likely wouldn’t get nearly as much tourist traffic as the Versatile location would.

  12. So, why does Chances not have to be downtown? If the issue is keeping entertainment downtown, why are there slot machines at the edge of the North Shore…. The casino should be allowed to move, anything else is unfair unless Chances is made to move!

  13. Seems like a good idea to me but more planning is definitely needed. I am already thinking traffic lights at the intersection of Versatile Drive and Hugh Allen? Also I doubt that the casino has considered the lack of public transportation to that area for the people who work there and customers that don’t drive. Hopefully it doesn’t get rushed through to the detriment of the area.

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