Surrey’s Sikh community rallied against casino proposal amid addiction, crime concerns

Published: February 4, 2013

CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS
POSTMEDIA NEWS

No to casino

An audience member shows his opposition to the project as he attends a public hearing at City Hall into the proposed South Surrey Casino Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 in Surrey, B.C. Ian Lindsay/PNG

Surrey’s Sikh community played a key role in defeating a proposed mega-casino in the city last month, joining other faiths in signing last-minute petitions and exerting pressure to kill the $100-million project.

Surrey Coun. Barinder Rasode said city council rejected the project in a 5-4 vote on Jan. 19 largely because of the influence of Sikh community leaders.

“It absolutely played a role,” she said, pointing to an anti-casino petition championed by the city’s two largest Sikh temples, Dasmesh Darbar Gurdwara and Guru Nanak Gurdwara, that garnered nearly 4,000 signatures.

The decision was all the more remarkable given the project had the tacit backing of most Liberal MLAs, and the explicit support of Rich Coleman, the provincial cabinet minister in charge of gambling.

Rasode pointed to scores of community leaders from the Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faiths who opposed the casino in a submission to city council. The Peninsula Pastors’ Network and the United Church of Canada also opposed the proposal.

On Jan. 6, Rajinder Singh Dhaliwal, president of Surrey’s 22,000-member Guru Nanak Gurdwara temple in Newton, stirred his congregation when he climbed on stage to announce a public hearing on the casino would be held later that month. He told congregants a petition awaited in the temple basement.

“We had many hundreds who signed the petition that day,” he said. “We left it up to each person to choose whether to sign or not to sign.”

Citing a family friend who lost his house after gambling away his earnings, Dhaliwal said he was concerned how families would be affected by the casino complex.

Gian Singh Gill, president of the Dasmesh Darbar Gurdwara temple in Newton, also spread word to his congregants, who he said shared his concern about a potentially harmful element coming to a community struggling with gang-related crime.

“Every day a new young person is gone, it seems,” he said. “We said this is not a good idea, especially in our community. … We already have a problem here. We don’t want to make new problems.”

Gill, who said hundreds signed the petition in person at his temple, added the Sikh faith forbids gambling.

Coun. Marvin Hunt, who is also a pastor, voted against the application from Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Ltd. largely because of his Christian faith.

The South Surrey proposal required city approval before a gambling licence could be issued, and the public meetings drew close to 200 speakers and ran over two nights, concluding with a 2 a.m. vote on Jan. 19.

The decision followed a seven-hour hearing Friday night, during which most supporters said the project would create local jobs and bring high-end entertainment to the city, while most opponents, many from the South Asian community, said it would increase traffic and crime, and hurt their property values.

Some 74 South Surrey residents opposed the casino, while 112 speakers, many of them Gateway workers bused to the hearing, spoke in favour.

Gateway had sought to move the temporary gambling licence it has for the Newton Bingo Country casino on King George Boulevard to the proposed 60,000-square-foot facility – slated for 12th Avenue and 168th Street.

The casino defeat arrived at a time when other Lower Mainland casino operators are actively wooing ethnic communities, tailoring everything from food to floor plans to keep the chips flowing.

Howard Blank, vice-president of media and entertainment at Great Canadian Gaming, which runs River Rock Casino in Richmond and the Hastings and Fraser Downs racetracks, sees it as a matter of customer service.

“If (a high roller) is from mainland China and they’re coming for the first time, we’d make sure we can offer … tea. And the proper tea,” he said. “It is about family and respect. We would make sure that one of our senior executives would be there to meet them and treat them as if they were coming into their own home.”

Blank said “high, high-end Chinese food” is available to customers at River Rock. A feng shui master even assesses the floor layout at new facilities “to make sure everything flows well.”

Most Great Canadian venues celebrate Chinese New Year and Diwali. Some include theatre acts catering to Asian, Indo-Canadian and Jewish guests: “People like Don Rickles and Joan Rivers have come to perform,” Blank said, highlighting efforts to appeal to Jewish clientele.

Blank said his floor staff collectively speak over 50 different languages, and will even send a translator to the poker table if necessary.

Dr. Bo Bernhard, associate professor and executive director of the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, said cultural ignorance can cost casinos millions. In 1993, the MGM Grand opened its doors on the Las Vegas strip in what was then the largest casino in the world, complete with a Mount Rushmore-sized entrance in the shape of a massive lion head. The result: a marked absence of Asian customers, later blamed on a cultural superstition that crossing the threshold through the mouth of a lion would bring bad luck.

“That cost them millions,” Bernhard said. “You have to be aware of the cultural context. It makes a difference.”

Tags: ,




Featured

football-100year journey

B.C.’s South Asian pioneer Ranjit Mattu mentored many football stars

SPECIAL TO VANCOUVER DESI Even as a child, Ranjit Mattu knew he had game. From his first play on the field of Mount Pleasant Elementary,…
Continue Reading »

pioneers

Dharm Singh Gill changed the way Sikhs were regarded for wearing turbans at work

SPECIAL TO VANCOUVER DESI Little did Dharm Singh Gill realize that an act of heroism would change the way Sikhs were regarded for wearing their…
Continue Reading »

Jacqui Feldman shows off a recovering Sugar, her 13-year-old poodle that Terra Nova vet Dr. Javaid Chaudhry, rear, helped save after operating to remove a tumour. Feldman, who is battling cancer herself, fell on hard times and couldn’t afford to pay the $3,000-plus for Sugar’s procedure.  Alan Campbell/Richmond News

Richmond veterinarian steps up to save cancer sufferer’s dying dog

ALAN CAMPBELL RICHMOND NEWS Richmond’s Jacqui Feldman, who’s suffering from terminal cancer, is crediting a local veterinarian with saving her life. It was a few weeks ago…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

A look at Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s first cabinet

THE CANADIAN PRESS EDMONTON — A look at Alberta’s NDP cabinet sworn in Sunday: Rachel Notley (Edmonton Strathcona) Premier, minister of intergovernmental affairs. Notley, 51,…
Continue Reading »

Japan-Canada trade talks stalled with no meetings in sight

By Mike Blanchfield THE CANADIAN PRESS OTTAWA — Trade talks have stalled between Canada and Japan — one of the Harper government’s priority countries for…
Continue Reading »

football-100year journey

B.C.’s South Asian pioneer Ranjit Mattu mentored many football stars

SPECIAL TO VANCOUVER DESI Even as a child, Ranjit Mattu knew he had game. From his first play on the field of Mount Pleasant Elementary,…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

weight-loss

Do we need to exercise more or eat less?

JILL BARKER MONTREAL GAZETTE A battle is waging in the scientific journals between several prominent health and fitness experts. In one corner are physicians Aseem Malhotra,…
Continue Reading »

exam scores

Identical twins’ mark sheets almost as identical and the story of a courageous young achiever

HINDUSTAN TIMES AND VANCOUVER DESI They are identical twins and, interestingly, even their mark sheets look almost the same. Ranchi twins Aporupa and Anorupa Chattopadhyay …
Continue Reading »

India-pharma-under scanner

U.S. lawsuit puts generic drug imports from India under scanner

IANS Washington – A U.S. class action lawsuit accusing India’s Ranbaxy of large-scale deception on its generic drug applications puts a question mark on drug…
Continue Reading »

100 year journey

Apart from the overwhelming cold, Sucha Singh Bagri has fond memories of his first few days in B.C.

SPECIAL TO VANCOUVER DESI Sucha Singh Bagri arrived in Canada with his father Harnam Singh Bagri on Feb 2, 1935, on the Empress of Russia,…
Continue Reading »

swimsuits

Who wants to be a Princess? Beauty pageant contestants undergo rigorous training

VANCOUVER DESI Divas aspiring to become Indian Princesses are undergoing rigorous training before the grand finale of the beauty pageant in Mumbai. Indian princess pageant 2015 ◄…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Items of clothing are displayed in room 331 of the Martinez Hotel, where Parisian fashion house Elie Saab provides sartorial services to celebrities attending the 68th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Thursday, May 21, 2015. During the Cannes Film Festival, room 331 is radically transformed into a red carpet emergency room - where celebrities like Naomi Watts and Nicole Kidman can rush to if they pop out of a dress, or a zipper breaks. Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

‘Nip slips’ and broken zippers: Red carpet Emergency Room for Cannes wardrobe malfunctions always full of drama

THOMAS ADAMSON THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CANNES, France – For most of the year, room 331 of the Martinez Hotel is just your run-of-the mill luxury…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood

Bollywood beauty Aishwarya Rai doesn’t leave her daughter alone even for a night

HINDUSTAN TIMES Apart from walking the red carpet at Cannes Film Festival, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is also screening footage from her upcoming film, Jazbaa. The first…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood

Photos: Aishwarya Rai an absolute stunner at Cannes 2015 (updated)

VANCOUVER DESI Former beauty queen Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has been a Cannes regular for over a decade now. But this year marks her comeback to the…
Continue Reading »