Casino still eyed for west of B.C. Place

Paragon extends lease for Plaza of Nations casino until 2015

Bets are still on that Edgewater Casino will relocate to a site west of B.C. Place Stadium.

Las Vegas-based parent Paragon Gaming has extended its lease with Canadian Metropolitan Properties for the Plaza of Nations casino until 2015 while Paragon and B.C. Pavilion Corporation hold their cards close to the vest.

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In April 2011, Vancouver city council rejected a bid to expand the licence from 600 to 1,500 slot machines, but the city gave Paragon the green light to move the licence to a proposed $450 million casino/hotel complex on PavCo land. Company president Scott Menke told the Courier in May that he was expecting to announce the move by the start of August. That was before PavCo CEO Warren Buckley resigned and Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Deputy Minister Dana Hayden took over on Aug. 1.

Haydens agenda, obtained via Freedom of Information, shows a flurry of meetings about the casino proposal during her first two months on the job. The first was an Aug. 15 update at the offices of Concert Properties. Concert chairman David Podmore was PavCos chairman until the end of September. Hayden met PavCo consultant Brent MacGregor on Aug. 20 for an unspecified briefing. MacGregor is a former deputy city manager whose primary PavCo responsibility is the casino proposal.

Hayden met Sept. 6 with Menke and B.C. Lottery Corporation CEO Michael Graydon. All casinos in B.C. operate in partnership with BCLC. Later that day, she had an hour-long conversation with Rich Coleman, the minister in charge of gambling promotion and regulation. Coleman became deputy premier a day earlier and also took over the PavCo portfolio from Pat Bell.

Haydens agenda also shows a Sept. 18 entry for review of the Paragon MDA for site 10A.

Neither Menke nor Hayden responded to interview requests. By email, Paragon spokeswoman Tamara Hicks said: Paragon is continuing its discussions with PavCo and other possible partners. We will update you once we have an agreement in place.

On its website, under Developments and Properties, Paragon mentions a Metro Vancouver Opportunity and continues to display a photograph of the renovated B.C. Place viewed from the east.

Paragon is the only casino entity among three gambling companies whose logos are on a BCLC website promoting the inaugural New Horizons in Responsible Gambling conference scheduled for Jan. 28-30, 2013 at the Pan Pacific Hotel. The others are British Group Print and Gaming Solutions and Pollard Banknote.

Revenue from the hotel/casino lease and the stadium naming rights was supposed to help PavCo repay a $150 million loan to the government for the budgeted $563 million project. In mid-August, the government claimed the renovation cost was $514 million. The original budget was $365 million.

Telus had a $40 million, 20-year deal to rename the stadium Telus Park, but the government scrapped the agreement in February. The delay and demise of the deal coincided with ongoing complaints by competitors Bell, Rogers and Shaw about the direct award of a $1 billion, 10-year government-wide telecommunications contract to Telus in June 2011. The companies were bidding for more than two years on nine separate contracts before the government grouped the work together and awarded it all to Telus.

Telus and PavCo have confirmed that they reached a supply agreement in August over the equipment Telus installed at B.C. Place, which reopened on Sept. 30, 2011. Neither side will comment on the size of compensation paid by the government to Telus.

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