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Non-profits take aim at gambling revenues

A coalition of British Columbia social and arts groups plan to launch a campaign Friday aimed at steering a greater portion of gambling revenues to non-profit groups.

Organizers will also be calling on politicians to make funds for non-profits a condition for zoning changes that would be required for the construction of a proposed new Vegas-style casino next to BC Place.

Arts groups say the provincial government has failed to keep promises that it would steer 33 per cent of gambling profits to community projects and instead has slashed that allotment to 10 per cent.

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The groups are expected to make their pitch Friday at the B.C. Association for Charitable Gaming Symposium at River Rock Casino in Richmond.

"We are taking this opportunity to urge the B.C. government and Minister [Rich] Coleman to properly fund charities and non-profits, as was promised when gaming was expanded throughout B.C.," Amir Ali Alibhai, executive director of the Greater Vancouver Alliance for Arts and Culture, said Thursday in a statement.

"While the government of B.C. becomes increasingly addicted to the lucrative business of gambling at the expense of vulnerable British Columbians, and continues to expand its gaming activities, it has proceeded to break a social contract made with B.C.'s citizens," he added.

The arts groups are also expected to call on city politicians to use their regulatory power to ensure some gambling funds are directed to social agencies and programs.

In March, the province unveiled plans for a new, 680,000-square-foot entertainment complex attached to BC Place. The complex would include two hotels and a casino and is subject to municipal approval and rezoning.

Pending city approval, the Edgewater Casino would be relocated as part of the rezoning process.

The province says the $450-million complex would create more than 8,500 jobs and generate up to $130-million in gambling revenues in its first year of operation. Arts groups and other critics say the casino could result in social problems in the downtown core and are expected to urge city officials to use the city's zoning powers to extract conditions relating to the casino's operation if it goes ahead.

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PavCo, the crown corporation that manages BC Place, has signed a 70-year lease with Paragon Development Ltd. for two acres next to BC Place. Pending rezoning, construction is planned to begin early next year and wrap up in 2013.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More

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