Up until last week, gambling was one of the issues the provincial government was most anxious to address, as evidenced by the short time frame it has given municipalities to comment on its proposed Gaming Control Act legislation. Municipalities have until Monday, March 15 to comment on the province’s 400-page white paper which, according to a report from Richmond city staff, "effectively takes local authority for land-use control over gaming locations" away from municipal governments. But as of early this week the Report Municipality of Whistler hadn’t even seen the document "I don’t think the white paper has hit our desk yet," said Mayor Hugh O’Reilly. "I haven’t seen it." The province had planned to introduce the bill when the legislature resumes sitting this month, but that timing may have changed with last week’s revelations regarding a proposed casino at the North Burnaby Inn. O’Reilly has written to the province expressing council’s position that: a) there has been insufficient time to review the white paper and b) decisions on gambling in Whistler should be made at the local level. The issue came up at the March 1 council meeting when a letter from Citizens Against Gambling Expansion was received. The letter stated in part: "To date, through local bylaws, municipal councillors have been able to defend their communities from some aspects of Victoria’s province wide expansion of the gambling industry. In December, 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that municipal bylaws trump Victoria’s bureaucratic regulations governing gambling. If the proposed new ‘Gaming Control Act’ becomes law before the end of March, as scheduled, all communities will lose needed local control." When the letter was received Councillor Dave Kirk said: "The message, I think, we want to send to Victoria was we don’t want any senior level of government overriding our decision to have or reject gambling. Kirk said he believes Whistlerites don’t want gambling locally, but said the point was: "We are looking for opportunities to make these decisions inside the community, not outside." Whistler passed a bylaw more than four years ago which prohibits gambling and electronic gaming, with the exception of a limited number of charity casino nights per year. The bylaw was introduced at a time when the provincial government appeared ready to permit video lottery terminals in B.C.


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