KAMLOOPS - Gateway Casinos is now free to move the downtown casino to the former Rona location after a public hearing last night and approval from Kamloops city councillors.
While nearly 200 people showed up for the public hearing at the Coast Hotel and Conference Centre, only a handful took to the podium to voice their opinion.
Of the 29 people who spoke, only three said they either don’t want the casino to move out of downtown, or simply don’t want the casino in Aberdeen. Everyone else showed support for the company, the move and even the improvements to traffic flow the relocation will help expedite in the area.
Gateway Casinos CEO Tony Santo said Lake City Casinos has been on Victoria Street for about 15 years and they look forward to providing a better facility for customers and the entire region, not just for the city.
“The gaming industry has changed quite a bit…. Our customers want more, they want a nice place to eat, to be entertained,” he said. “It will be a showpiece and will also be a place (B.C. Lotteries Commission) can be proud of.”
Coun. Tina Lange questioned several different business people on the idea of keeping a casino downtown versus moving it to Aberdeen. One of those men was Bryan Pilbeam, the Vice President of the company that runs Hotel540 where Lake City Casinos is currently located. He made it very clear that Gateway knows what is best for them and that Hotel540 already has plans in place to deal with the space when it becomes vacated.
“We support the relocation, but we do so quite selfishly,” he told the packed room. “We have an initial proposal for a performing arts facility and we’re looking forward to bringing something new and fresh to downtown. Our owners have shown they are committed to downtown Kamloops, they’ve already invested millions into their properties.”
Pilbeam thinks moving to a performing arts centre will help provide a ‘cultural spine’ to the downtown core, changing the feel of the area.
“I think it will be a game changer for that area. The area has come a long way from what it was even seven or eight years ago,” he noted after the meeting. “When you add people and density it changes the vibe. This can really anchor the other end of downtown instead of drifting off.”
Pilbeam said while parking is not part of their current proposal a complimentary parkade next to the performing arts centre is a definite possibility.
BCLC Interim CEO Jim Lightbody was also on hand to lend his support to the project and noted how important Kamloops—the residents and the city—are to the corporation.
“This will enhance the city as a whole for citizens and visitors alike,” he said. “(The relocation) will offer outstanding gaming entertainment.”
Now that the necessary changes to the official community plan and rezoning have been approved by council, (only Coun. Donovan Cavers stuck with the original staff recommendation and voted against the project) the company will begin the permitting process. Santo says they hope to be opened by October 2015.
The relocation will see jobs jump to about 250 from the current 110 jobs offered at the downtown location and will offer an estimated $1.6 million in tax revenue for the city.
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People quickly lined up to speak at the public hearing for the casino relocation project Tuesday evening.
(JENNIFER STAHN / iNFOnews.ca)