12/16/2013 01:25 EST | Updated 02/15/2014 05:59 EST

Vancouver Paragon Casino Plan Approved With Conditions

A development permit has been issued with conditions to Paragon Gaming to build an urban resort in downtown Vancouver.

The $535-million project includes two hotel towers, a conference centre, restaurants and a new and expanded location for the existing Edgewater Casino, with twice the floor space of the existing facility at the Plaza of Nations.

Opponents of the plan voiced their concern over gambling addiction in light of Provincial Health Officer Perry Kendall's report on the health effects of gaming.

Two years ago, the city rejected any expansion of gambling at the proposed site next to BC Place Stadium.

In a statement, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said the city would honour that promise — the casino's licence remains capped at 600 slots and 75 tables.

"Today's decision by the Development Permit Board ensures that the proponent will have to align operations with the concerns raised in the recent Provincial Health Officer’s Report on Gambling," he said.

The city's director of planning, along with city council, will conduct a final review of the project before it can go ahead.

The issue of gambling addiction, the number of automated cash machines in the building, hours of operation and hours in which liquor can be served will be taken into consideration.

Furthermore, the building must be constructed to the highest environmental certification — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold standard.

"I will ask city staff to identify further measures to prevent any expansion of gambling in the future on this site, including amendments to bylaws or the Northeast False Creek official development plan that will restrict the allowable casino floor space to the existing proposal," said Robertson

Sixteen people signed up to speak at the permit board hearing Monday, which was the last chance for public input.

Rod MacDonald, president of Vancouver Fire Fighters' Union Local 18, has struggled with gambling addiction in the past.

He said with the approval of the project, an increase in gambling addiction is inevitable.

"The carnage that's left behind when anybody is addicted to gambling is horrendous," he said. "We need to do a better job of dealing with this disease."

MacDonald said the city is not taking a proactive enough approach, although the conditions are a start. He said putting a telephone number to a helpline on a slot machine just doesn't cut it.

Sandy Garossino, with Vancouver Not Vegas, questions the timing of the final consultations and meetings.

"Why is this being rushed through in the Christmas season?" she asked.

"The public is not being given the opportunity to be heard. None of this makes any sense at all. It is being rammed through," Garossino said.

If the project meets the next round of approval, Paragon hopes to be open by 2016.

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