I need your help.
Will someone, anyone, please give me an example of an already ailing neighbourhood that actually benefited from expanded gaming facilities right in the midst? Can anyone show me where adding slot machines to an existing bingo hall has actually improved and revitalized the surrounding area?
I’ve written several times about the spiralling degradation of Newton, a residential neighbourhood in Surrey that has been suffering for quite a while. My most recent article was published as an open letter the the editor of the Surrey Now. https://lailayuile.wordpress.com/2008/04/07/two-sides-to-every-coin-and-every-story/. My outrage is clear and certainly the recent news that Surrey Mayor and council support Boardwalks efforts to “revitalize” the existing strip mall by expanding the Bingo Hall and adding slot machines didn’t soothe me one bit.
In a 5-3 vote, council approved the continuation of the plan, allowing it to move to the public hearing stage as well as further scrutiny by council. Councillor Linda Hepner supports the $25million plan whole-heartedly and says she feels comfortable with the bid because it calls for penny slots – pennies and nickels.
Time for a little reality check Linda – and for those who also voted to let this go further along. I bet you don’t get out much in Newton to actually know what the immediate area is like around the mall, do you? Have you ever actually even been in the current facility? Good grief.
How about coming for a walk with me so I can show you first-hand what is at stake. I invite all the councillors along for a little schooling.
Right behind the Mall is a family, lower income housing co-op – a large one. There are also two well-known crack houses right behind the mall area. There are several lower -income apartment buildings.
Within a half block is a closed and abandoned gas station where street people congregate and reside overnight.
Two blocks to the south is large homeless shelter, and three well-known low-cost motels where street walkers ply their trade are right across from it. Two blocks to the north is a recycling bottle depot, where at night after closing, the local hookers and addicts hang out to socialize.
Within three blocks of the current and proposed facility, there are 2 pawn shops. Two
There are also 3 cheque cashing facilities with extended hours.
Within 4 blocks, there are two parole offices,one federal, one provincial, 5 pubs and attached cold beer and wine stores,and the extremely dicey Newton Bus Loop.
I’m told , but have been unable to confirm, that the pharmacy at the local Safeway is the local methadone dispensing facility.
Plans have been made for a facilty for women escaping domestic violence with second stage housing for them and their children,within two blocks.
Do you see where I’m going with all this? All of the above businesses and homes are within a short walk of the proposed facility. This is clearly not a neighbourhood where the residents are brimming with hope. One can already see obviously troubled residents in the bingo hall, trying to win it big, spending Lord knows what kind of money they don’t really have to spare.
How can anyone- especially an elected city official – say they honestly feel comfortable because ‘its only penny and nickel slots’ ?
Do you think for one minute that every down and out bum, addict and hooker isn’t going to be in there plugging those machines with their scrounged up pennies and nickels, hoping to score a $10 dollar win for their next fix, some food, or a pack of cigarettes? You’re selling false hope, and nothing more. Its not going to be people with money in this facility, dear mayor and council, its going to be the people who really don’t have it to spare. The people who cant feed themselves or their kids, the people who have already lost all hope and are hoping to hit it big with one more push of the button. Think not River Rock Casino – think the dirty streets ofold Vegas.
You will have to excuse my impertinence , but since when was it councils business to sell false hope in exchange for a better looking facility? At one time, council fought against slot machines, but yet you seem so willing to host the thought now – whats changed?
Ahhh….. I think I smell money… 10% of all profits from the slots? I hope you plan to spend it all on RCMP, because we are going to need them even more than we do now after slots are installed. You think Joe Blow isn’t going to breaking into even more cars for some change or CD’s he can sell for quick cash? HA!
You are fooling yourself, Linda Hepner, if you truly believe its going to make the neighbourhood better. I think besides the fact that the buildings will undergo cosmetic improvements you don’t have to fund, the profits are obviously the big selling point for Mayor and council – not the reality of what goes on after slots are installed.
If you really want to do something to help save the neighbourhood, how about starting with the basics.
Order those owners of abandoned buildings to knock them down instead of leaving them as gathering places for crime and drugs. Clean up the streets, and start approving some projects that really will change the entire area for better.You want a thriving community with pride? Show the community you really, truly support them. Meet with the rental property owners and hold them accountable for their atrocious properties. Low income doesn’t have to mean slum, and it shouldn’t. These residents need help, not slot machines.
Haven’t any of you noticed all the security guards the local businesses have to hire to protect their staff and patrons? Not just one, sometimes two and three. What does this tell you? We need more policing. We need it badly, in this area.
Boardwalk Entertainment claims to have so much public support, and I bet they do- from all the current bingo players who already use the current facility. The place is busy all the time, and sadly enough, its almost entirely the same people who I speak of above. No money to spare, and yet day in and day out, there they are.
Perhaps we cant force someone into detox who is on drugs, perhaps we cant turn around the life of every street person, but you can prevent this neighbourhood from becoming worse than it already is, for those who actually care and live here.
Dont provide yet another avenue for petty crime, addiction and hopelessness. For those on council who do not live with the realities of this neighbourhood, please think about this. Real change takes vision, dedication and concentrated effort at sticking to concrete plans. Too bad council doesn’t seem to share the vision I have for Newton, because slot machines are not part of it.
You might feel good about supporting this proposal now, because you don’t actually live here, or have to deal with the consequences, but what will you do when the revitalization you seek, doesn’t magically appear when those slot machines are installed?
How will you feel then? Will the percentage of profits you retain from the proceeds allow you to sleep better at night? I hope you will, because I know I won’t be able to.
Update: Council approved the slots in Newton on a temporary basis while the South Surrey Casino motion moves forward http://www.canada.com/life/Surrey+city+council+slot+machines+Newton+bingo+hall/7435578/story.html