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Sandy Garossino founded Vancouver Not Vegas as part of the successful fight against a casino there. (Jeff Vinnick For The Globe and Mail)
Sandy Garossino founded Vancouver Not Vegas as part of the successful fight against a casino there. (Jeff Vinnick For The Globe and Mail)

Casino battleground Add to ...

Part of The Big Gamble, a series examining British Columbia’s complicated relationship with casinos.

The Promoter: Jacee Schaefer

For years, she was the godmother of gambling in B.C. Jacee Schaefer was opposed to tourist-oriented destination casinos for the province in the 1980s. That’s when she was the vice-president of Great Canadian Casino Supply Co. That company ran small casinos in the province that operated in conjunction with charity groups that helped staff them in return for part of the profits. But as casinos proliferated beyond provincial borders, drawing B.C. gamblers and their money, Ms. Schaefer, who became president of the Casino Management Council of B.C., started to lobby for changes that would allow casinos to expand. And people listened when she spoke. Ms. Schaefer was also renowned for her skills in organizing political campaigns, first for the Social Credit party, then for the Liberals. As well, she had ties to one of B.C.’s most high-profile lobbyists, Patrick Kinsella, whom she once called her mentor. Today, Ms. Schaefer is mostly absent from the scene, although Mr. Kinsella was said to be active in the failed Surrey casino proposal. But Ms. Schaefer did reappear earlier this year, as a partner in Chances Abbotsford, urging that city to increase slots at its gaming centre. Council turned that down.

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The Opponent: Sandy Garossino

Until the fall of 2010, Sandy Garossino had no opinions about casinos. The former Crown prosecutor, who had left law to manage her father’s large taxi business and sold it in 2000, had filled her life with volunteer work in the arts sector. The plan to expand Vancouver’s casino piqued her interest mostly because she, like many in B.C.’s arts scene, was angry that the government had slashed the money arts groups received from the province’s cut of casino profits. Ms. Garossino didn’t really clue in to the fact that Vancouver’s casino was planning an expansion when it was announced in early 2010. But later that year, she realized casinos were like the taxi industry: The province didn’t have total control. The city needed to approve the licence. “There is when I realized there was something to be done.” Using her legal skills, she started tracking the money trail. That was alarming. She joined forces with artist Lindsay Brown, who had a blog called Stop BC Arts Cuts, and Sean Bickerton of the residents’ association near the planned casino. They formed Vancouver Not Vegas, and ignited a revolution online. Within six months, council voted down the expansion.

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