The District of Houston is working with the Houston mall manager on options to develop the mall, which may include a Houston casino.
Mall Manager James MacKenzie and his mortgage lender met in Houston Dec. 16 with Councillor Kyle Thomson, Director of Engineering and Development Services John Guenther, Chamber of Commerce Manager Maureen Czirfusz and Bulkley Valley Credit Union Branch Manager Tanya Amonson.
“When [the idea of a casino] came up, their eyes lit up… and they were very interested in the idea,” Councillor Thomson reported to council at a meeting Dec. 17.
“To more or less quote what they said, they said that if the town would be interested in a casino, they would put a shovel in the ground tomorrow.
“It’s worth looking into I think,” Thomson said.
At a council meeting last Tuesday, staff asked council for direction.
Mayor Bill Holmberg said the idea of a casino raised the hair on the back of his neck a bit.
“My first choice would not be a casino, because along with that comes a whole lot of other issues,” he said.
Councillor Rick Lundrigan said that if a casino is being considered, council should do research and have some serious discussion about it.
“It has its pros and cons and we have to weigh that out.
“We’re looking at something that’s going to try to replace an industry that we’re losing, and whether you like them or not, casinos draw people in and motels and restaurants thrive around them. But there’s another aspect to that as well.
“I’m just saying that the pros and cons are something that we should maybe look at,” he said.
Council agreed to direct staff to look into the options, confirm the level of interest from the mall managers, and report back to council.
When asked his opinion, Guenther said he thought the idea was probably worth exploring.
If a casino was approved, Guenther said it would likely not be put inside the mall; they would either tear down the mall and replace it with a casino, or build a casino in a separate building close by.
The land would have to be rezoned in order for casino to be built, and that’s a big deal which requires a public hearing and consolation process, Guenther said.
“[The District] can’t do it without public consulting… and this council is really interested in public engagement anyway,” he said.