Some Langley Township councillors want money from regional casinos spread around to all communities – including the Township.
Councillors Steve Ferguson and Eric Woodward argued Monday evening that casinos like those in Langley City, Richmond, and Burnaby should share the wealth with communities without casinos.
Woodward noted that Langley City, population a little more than 26,000 people, received $7.7 million in casino revenues last year, as it hosts the Cascades Casino.
Woodward summed up the lengthy and technical motion in layman’s language: “Whereas other municipalities are getting lots of money from regional casinos, whereas we have lots of people and don’t get any money from casinos and want some, therefore form a plan with other municipalities to go ask for some.”
The motion called on the Township to reach out to other communities that lack casinos to petition the province to change the formula under which casino revenues are distributed.
“What we’re doing is looking at fairness, fairness, fairness,” said Ferguson.
Other councillors expressed some concerns about potentially starting a dispute with other cities over casino revenue.
The Township was given first chance to host the casino more than 15 years ago, and there was an immediate backlash from residents, remembered Coun. Kim Richter.
“We turned it down, and the City stepped in,” she said.
She worried attempting to change the funding formula could be seen as a direct attack on the City of Langley.
“I’m concerned about opening a can of worms here,” said Coun. David Davis.
“There’s some sort of tension between the City of Langley and the Township, and I don’t want to build on it,” he added.
“I’m not here to make nice with politicians in other communities,” Woodward said.
Ferguson mentioned the City walking away from sharing some costs for facilities such as the W.C. Blair Pool in the past.
In the end, council voted to reach out to other communities to see if there would be an interest in lobbying the government.
The rest of the motion, which outlines a plan for petitioning the province and considers the uses of casino funds, was referred to a future Council Priorities Committee (CPC) meeting for more discussion, at Richter’s suggestion.
“CPC is where good ideas go to die,” Woodward said.
Langley City Mayor Val van den Broek also noted that the Township had the chance to have a casino of its own.
“We said yes to it, the Township of the day, the council of the day said no,” she said.
“We’re happy to have the casino,” van den Broek said, noting that the City went through a consultation with its residents about the casino back when it was first planned 16 years ago.
The casino revenues have gone towards major infrastructure projects around the City over the years, but it has also meant extra policing and planning costs for the City, she said.
Langley Township’s council was firmly opposed to the establishment of a casino in it’s nearest neighbour when the idea was floated – in 2003 the Township filed a formal objection with the B.C. Lottery Corporation against locating a casino there.
Ferguson, who was on council at the time, voted in favour of the objection.
Later that same year, the Township even considered severing the joint policing agreement under which the City and Township are served by the same RCMP detachment. The predicted increased policing costs of a casino were one consideration, but the Township ultimately decided not to tear up the agreement.