B.C. Lottery Corporation head joins casino company

Michael Graydon will oversee a $535 million casino complex to be built adjacent to B.C. Place Stadium

The former president and CEO of the B.C. Lottery Corporation has joined a new company in which he will oversee the operations of a $535 million casino complex to be built adjacent to B.C. Place Stadium.

Michael Graydon, who announced his resignation from the lottery corporation in January, is the president of the newly formed PV Hospitality ULC, which is described as an equal partnership with affiliates 360 VOX Corporation and Paragon Gaming Inc.

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Paragon is the Las Vegas company that owns Edgewater Casino at the former Plaza of Nations site. In December, the city’s development permit board granted Paragon a preliminary development application to build a new casino, with hotels and restaurants adjacent to B.C. Place Stadium.

News of Graydon’s new job surfaced in a Feb. 7 news release posted on the Canada NewsWire, which said Graydon’s first priority will be “oversight and operations of Vancouver’s new world-class urban resort” adjacent to B.C. Place.

Paragon spokesperson Tamara Hicks told the Courier in an email Friday that Graydon was unavailable for an interview until next week.

The release, however, quoted Graydon saying “I see this as a culmination of all I’ve achieved in my career, and am committed to help make PV Hospitality the world’s premier operator of destination resorts in North America.”

Graydon worked for the lottery corporation for six years and supported Paragon’s original request of city council to build the new casino with 1,500 slot machines and 150 games tables.

In April 2011, city council voted unanimously to reject Paragon’s proposal, which would have almost tripled its current complement of slots to 1,500 and doubled the number of games tables to 150.

Council, however, did give Paragon the green light to move its casino operations from the Edgewater site to the property adjacent to B.C. Place Stadium — as long as it kept the current number of slots and games tables.

Sandy Garossino, spokesperson for the anti-gambling coalition Vancouver Not Vegas!, said Graydon’s appointment is “stunning” and she questioned the ethics of the move.

“This is the question: Was he negotiating his compensation package with Paragon while he was sitting as CEO of the lottery corporation?” said Garossino, adding that Graydon would likely have financial information and other knowledge of Paragon’s competitors. “He’s acquired that knowledge on the public’s dime and that’s now gone over to Paragon.”

In light of questions being raised about Graydon’s new job, Hicks said it was important to note the regulation of gambling in British Columbia falls under the province’s gaming policy enforcement branch, not BCLC.

“This is a highly regulated industry, both by provincial and federal regulators,” she wrote. “Michael’s record of integrity and leadership is well known in the industry, and we are very excited to welcome him to our team.”

Garossino said Graydon’s move reminded her of a previous lottery corporation chairperson who later joined Paragon’s board of directors.

T. Richard Turner was chairperson of the lottery corporation from 2001 to 2005 before joining Paragon’s board. In April 2010, the Vancouver Sun reported that Turner placed a call in 2009 to the minister responsible for the B.C. Pavilion Corporation (PavCo), which owns B.C. Place Stadium.

Turner placed the call on behalf of Paragon to say the company would back away from its bid to build a casino complex if renovations to B.C. Place didn’t include a retractable roof.

Turner told the Sun he didn’t try to influence PavCo’s decision on which company it would pick to develop the property. In a brief interview with the Courier in March 2011, Turner described his role with Paragon as providing “advice from time to time at a board meeting.”

Another former BCLC head, Vic Poleschuk, became Great Canadian Casino's senior vice-president of operations in May 2010. He spent eight years as CEO and president.

In Graydon’s farewell blog post Feb. 3 on BCLC’s website, he wrote that “although I am excited for my new journey, I am sad to leave the family I’ve built here at BCLC. I take with me valuable experience and many memories.”

He also said he was proud of BCLC’s work on responsible gambling and “social responsibility programs.” He added that he only wished “our detractors would take the time to see what we are actually doing to assist customers to keep our business in perspective.”

Graydon is scheduled to begin his new job Feb. 11.

mhowell@vancourier.com

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