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Controversial Vancouver casino hearings resume

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The debate over an expanded casino next to BC Place Stadium resumes Saturday morning at Vancouver City Hall.

About 150 delegations are still waiting to speak on the controversial project, which has been in a public hearing phase since March.

The proposed $450-million development by Las Vegas-based Paragon Gaming Co. would build a 500-room hotel and relocate and expand the existing Edgewater

Casino to the property between the stadium and the Cambie Bridge.

This casino has the support of the B.C. Pavilion Corporation, the B.C. Lottery Corporation and hundreds of employees at the current Edgewater casino.

Those opposed include community groups, anti-gambling advocates and a long list of retired police officers who said in an open letter to Vancouver City Council Thursday that the new casino would be a magnet for organized crime and would aggravate the growing scourge of gambling addiction.

"We can't stand back and let something like this happen, because we know how organized crime has its tentacles in society," said retired New Westminster police sergeant Ivan Chu, one of the signatories to the anti-casino letter.

A former federal Crown prosecutor and spokesperson for the Vancouver Not Vegas Coalition, Sandy Garossino, says that despite the corporate pressure on council, approval of the project is not a foregone conclusion.

"People are becoming much more informed," Garossino told CBC News Friday. "They are becoming much more informed about … health issues, addiction issues and crime issues."

She said the project would be a "vulnerability and a liability for the city."

Proponents point to the estimated 1,000 jobs that would be created and the millions of tourist dollars for the local economy.

The forces in favour got a boost Friday from David Atkins, producer of the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Atkins also has written to city council, saying the project would help revitalize northeast False Creek and would be a "dynamic icon that will offer tourists and residents extraordinary entertainment."


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