Slot machines back on table by Abbotsford mayor’s request

A request to expand the number of slot machines in Abbotsford from 125 to up to 300 is back before council.

Chances Community Gaming Centre is home to 125 slot machines. Owners are hoping to increase the number to 300.

Chances Community Gaming Centre is home to 125 slot machines. Owners are hoping to increase the number to 300.

A request for more slot machines will be back before council on Monday.

Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman has used his “executive privilege” to ask for the request to be reconsidered.

Playtime Gaming, which runs the Chances Community Gaming Centre on Peardonville Road, made a request in January to increase the number of slot machines from 125 to as many as 300. The expansion would occur in stages of 25 or 50 machines at a time, as deemed necessary by the B.C. Lottery Corporation.

Council voted 5-4 against giving first reading to the request. Had the request moved forward on the motion, it would have gone to a public hearing before final approval.

“I ran on a campaign of public input and public consideration, and quite frankly, there are so many charities that are involved, that I think … council has an obligation to listen to both sides before they make a decision,” said Banman.

Chances, in partnership with the Abbotsford Bingo Association, provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in local charitable grants from a portion of the gaming revenue.

With that in mind, Banman said the public needs to have their voices heard.

“All I’m asking is that council sit and listen before they make a decision.”

Banman said sitting through a long public hearing is the least council can do.

“ I think there are plenty of voices on both sides that want to be heard.”

If, after the public hearing, council still refuses to allow expansion, then Banman said he’s “OK with that; at least they listened to both sides.”

Council still has to vote on Monday night whether to send it to public hearing.

Bill MacGregor was one of the five councillors who voted against going to a public hearing, but said he is willing to listen to the proposal again.

“This is part of a process. It’s been brought back for a reason. I’m obligated as a public servant to sit and listen in as impartial a manner as I possibly can,” he said.

MacGregor said he wanted to save his comments for Monday’s meeting, but did say he was not happy with how the B.C. Lottery Corporation “runs its business,” adding it limits the number of companies it allows to operate casinos.

Art Villa, coordinator of business development for Playtime Gaming, said he’s pleased the subject is going back to council.

“We’ve been open for a few years now and perhaps it’s a good chance to let the public have their say in respect to how they feel it’s been received,” said Villa.

Monday’s council meeting follows an unrelated public hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. at Matsqui Centennial auditorium.

One of the issues to be discussed at the public hearing is a liquor licence request for Chances.