Langley City council has narrowly approved the closure of the Summit Theatre at the Cascades casino and its conversion to a bingo hall.
Some members of council complained that Cascades owner, Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Ltd., should have given the municipality more notice about its proposal to close the theatre and make changes to the convention centre to better accommodate live concerts and other events.
At the April 9 regular meeting of council, Coun. Gayle Martin said the convention centre is owned by the City and managed by the casino operator, who should have given the municipality advance notice of the changes.
“We were never consulted prior to any of this happening,” Martin said.
“I’m disappointed in the way this was brought forward,” she added.
Mayor Ted Schaffer said it was clear the Township bingo licence would be moving to the Cascades in the City, and postponing the decision to have further discussions with the operator would only mean a “major delay to the bingo-playing group out there.”
“There would be huge delays, I believe, and those delays could probably be a couple of months,” Schaffer said.
The vote on the resolution, that “City Council support the proposed ‘substantial change’ of relocating Playtime Langley Bingo to the Cascades Casino” passed in a 4-3 vote, with Councillors Martin, Paul Albrecht and Nathan Pachal opposed.
The alterations to the convention centre are expected to create a larger live performance space that will allow for up to 600 guests, according to a project overview report. The Summit Theatre had room for 420.
Renovations are to include the addition of a stage riser and modification of the ceiling structure to allow for retractable sound and lighting.
Gateway said the former Summit Theatre was “moderately successful,” but was limited due to its size, which restricted the economies of scale for popular available acts, and the 19 and older age requirement for guests.
The new entertainment area is located outside the casino, meaning family friendly shows can be accommodated.
The move of the bingo hall represented a potential $100,000 a year loss for Langley’ Gateway of Hope homeless shelter.
When the Playtime Gaming mini-casino and bingo hall at 19664 64 Ave. was operating in Langley Township, it shared a percentage of its gaming revenue with the municipality, money that was used to help fund the Langley City shelter.
That changed when Gateway Ltd., the operator of the Cascades Casino Hotel and Convention Centre in Langley City, acquired Playtime in December 2015.
At the time, Playtime was mostly devoted to bingo, with a mini-casino featuring a small number of slot machines on its second floor.
After the purchase, the new owner closed the mini-casino, then announced plans to relocate bingo to the Cascades, where it intended to close the Summit Theatre at the Cascades and convert that space into a bingo hall.
The end to the revenue-sharing agreement with the Township could have meant a $100,000 loss for the Gateway of Hope shelter if Township council had not agreed to cover the difference in its 2018 budget.
“The Gateway of Hope provides a very important service to the entire community,” Township of Langley Mayor Jack Froese said in response to a Times query.
“Township council felt it was important to continue providing the Gateway with the financial support they rely on to give food, shelter, and assistance to those most in need in Langley.”
The casino operator has said moving the bingo facility had been their plan since they acquired it in 2015, and they were unable to find a suitable location within the Township.
“Slot-playing bingo patrons will have access to Cascades Casinos’ exciting slot floor during bingo sessions, and all bingo patrons will have access to greater food and beverage offerings and options,” a project overview stated.
Cascades was expected to begin work later this year on a major renovation that will add two more restaurants and more space for gaming and special events to the Langley City facility.
The 23,000 square foot, two-storey addition will be built on the south side of the casino where it faces Fraser Highway, in the location where taxis and motorcycles currently park.
Plans call for an upscale “Atlas” steak and seafood restaurant, with a smaller casual “Chow” dining spot, along with an additional gaming area and washrooms on the ground floor.
A roof patio and special occasion area will go upstairs.