Abbotsford council denies request for slot machine increase

There will be no increase to the number of slot machines at Chances Community Gaming Centre.

There will be no increase to the number of slot machines at Chances Community Gaming Centre.

Abbotsford council voted Monday to turn down a rezoning request that would allow the Peardonville Road facility to increase its current 125 machines to as many as 300.

“I’m not in favour of this, this continuous ongoing push to expand gambling,” said Coun. Simon Gibson.

“Council supported 125 machines. This is a radical increase. This is an over 100 per cent increase of slot machines … This is not money that was just minted; this is money that comes out of family budgets, out of food budgets.”

Members of the audience applauded Gibson’s comments, and one shouted “Hallelujah!”

Several councillors echoed Gibson’s sentiments.

Coun. Dave Loewen said he remembered the last public hearing, when Chances first asked to bring in slot machines.

“There was a large segment of our community that was in favour and a large segment that was against it. I think the vote on council at that time reflected the split in our community … I opposed it at the time for social and economic reasons … ”

Couns. Les Barkman, Bill MacGregor and Henry Braun were also against the expansion.

Coun. Patricia Ross felt the proposal should at least move forward to a public hearing.

“Now that it’s been there and we’ve had slot machines for several years now, how do you feel now? That’s the question I want to ask the people out there.”

Council defeated the request in a close 5-4 vote.

While council turned down slot machine expansion, it did approve a second request granting Chances first reading for a liquor primary use classification that would allow the company to serve alcohol from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Sunday. A public hearing will be scheduled for a later date.

Again the vote was 5-4, but this time Barkman voted on the yes side.

He said they are two different issues.

He said he didn’t want to make slot machines more accessible to people who don’t have disposable incomes.

Mayor Bruce Banman said he was surprised by council’s decision as he thought a public hearing on slots would have been productive.

“It would have been a good opportunity for council to listen to the public. They chose not to do that.”

Art Villa, coordinator of business development for Playtime Gaming, which runs Chances, called the decision surprising.

“You get people saying they don’t want anymore gambling, no more machines, get into the moral aspect of it with Simon (Gibson) and Dave (Loewen) and that’s to be expected … Les (Barkman) has voted for us before so I was a little surprised when he voted against us,” said Villa.

He was slightly encouraged by the liquor licence decision.

“It’s something, but it’s no real consolation.”