No dice for bingo charities?

Paragon Gaming Inc. appears to have yet to deliver on a seven-year-old commitment it inherited to develop a new charitable bingo facility in Vancouver. But, as of late Tuesday, no one had stepped forward to answer questions about the status of that commitment, as the Las Vegas-based firm gets ready to build a mega casino near BC Place. According to a review of city council records by Public Eye, that commitment goes back to 2003.

At the time, Gary Jackson and Len Libin were trying to win council approval for a temporary casino featuring slot machines at the Plaza of Nations.

As part of that effort, the businessmen struck a deal with the association that operates Planet Bingo.

Under a memorandum of understanding ratified on October 15 of that year, the association's members agreed to support the introduction of slot machines in Vancouver.

In return, the businessmen promised to develop a new bingo facility - something the association wanted to see happen no later than 2006.

The support Messrs. Jackson and Libin got from those charities was a key factor in council approving the Edgewater Casino - which had always planned to eventually move to a more permanent location.

Three years later, that bingo facility had yet to be built because of Edgewater's "financial difficulties."

According to an administrative report prepared for council, the casino's new owner - Paragon Gaming - and the charities "agreed on a plan to realize this commitment" just before the company successfully asked the city to extend Edgewater's development permit until July 31, 2013.

In a letter sent to the Community Gaming Management Association's executive director Wendy Thompson, Paragon Gaming executive John Cahill wrote his company was "committed to working cooperatively and in good faith with Planet Bingo to implement a mutually feasible resolution to the matters raised in the MOU."

"In order to assist Paragon in meeting this commitment, Paragon requests that Planet Bingo and its affiliated charities communicate to Vancouver City Council its support for the requested development permit extension, without which we can not proceed."

Four years later, B.C. Pavilion Corp. has awarded Paragon Gaming a 70-year-lease agreement to build a mega casino near BC Place.

But there's still no sign of a new bingo facility.

As of late Tuesday, Paragon Gaming - which will close Edgewater when the mega casino opens - hadn't responded to requests for comment about the status of the memorandum of understanding.

For its own part, the community gaming management association wasn't prepared to comment because British Columbia Lottery Corp. "requires that all media communications from any gaming operator have prior approval by them before being made public."

The lottery corporation has said it's unable to respond to our inquiries until Wednesday - after our deadline.

But Vision Vancouver city councillor Raymond Louie did step up to microphone.

Speaking with Public Eye, Mr. Louie said, "My understanding is the memorandum of understanding wasn't as robust as Planet Bingo hoped it would be. And the result wasn't as they had originally envisioned. So it's still an outstanding issue in my mind."

The Vancouver Sun's Andrea Woo first reported on that concern last month.

The councillor also told Public Eye he's worried the mega casino will take a bite out of the money Planet Bingo provides to Vancouver charities.

"I think, logically, it would have a negative impact on Planet Bingo," Mr. Louie said, echoing an earlier statement he made to the Vancouver Courier's Jeremy Shepherd.

And that means it will have "a negative impact on the revenues to these charities and, in turn, make it harder for these charities to provide needed services."

Leave a comment

Copyright © 2004 - Public Eye Mediaworks. Reproductions of any portion of this Website are permitted only with the expressed permission of Public Eye Mediaworks.
Canadian Web Hosting graciously provided by dotcanuck Web Services. Layout and graphics courtesy of Art Department Design.