Casino plan back on the table for Grand Forks

A proposal for a casino in Grand Forks has once again been brought up at city council.

Dan Norton

A proposal for a casino in Grand Forks has once again been brought up at city council.

Grand Forks resident Dan Norton brought the proposal forward at a recent meeting with support from Bob Smith, who headed the last proposal that went to referendum in the late-‘90s.

Norton says that currently there is $4 million leaving the City of Grand Forks to the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) in the form of lottery tickets and a casino could help keep a lot of that money in the city.

“From the casino, 10 per cent off the top goes back to the city,” Norton said. “That’s going to help lower taxes, utilities, plus allow them some extra money to do some improvements. It’s really a win-win situation for everybody.”

A casino would also make Grand Forks a destination on many travelers’ maps, he said, because it could also offer entertainment, as well as the usual slot machines and card tables.

The casino would be housed in the Pavillion out near Grand Forks’ industrial park and would be kept as a smaller endeavour.

Council has asked that Norton come back with a more detailed plan for the casino before going any further and Norton said that even with council’s approval, he would still have to go through the BCLC process before getting the green light.

Mayor Brian Taylor says that he is supportive of the proposal going to the next step and said he thinks taking it to the public right away was a good idea.

“Going one step at a time I would think the next thing would be to get something back from that business group that doesn’t go to the point of spending so much money, but gives us something a little more concrete that we can hang our hat on with a yes or no,” Taylor said.

The mayor said that he would then like to see it go to public hearings but does not support a referendum this time around.

“It (the original referendum) was an opinion referendum. It was held basically that that’s all you could say that it was. It was not binding on council,” Taylor said.

“Some of the concerns… were addressed in terms of the myths of casinos: they don’t draw in more crime, it’s primarily seniors who are gambling. The demographics are something like 70 to 75 per cent seniors, those kinds of things. I think people have become more accustomed to it.”

Taylor said that though he doesn’t gamble, he sees the subject of gambling as “holding the river back,” because it is something people will do anyway.

“I’m not going to be the one who’s going to stand in front of the river,” Taylor said.

“So I think there are things we can do to create less harm; spread some of what is basically a taxation on a certain group of people.”