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ICBC chair and mega casino developer have a past

The Insurance Corp. of British Columbia's (ICBC) chair has a longstanding business relationship with Paragon Gaming Inc., the Las Vegas-based firm that recently inked a deal to build a mega casino in Vancouver, Public Eye has exclusively learned.

The Insurance Corp. of British Columbia's (ICBC) chair has a longstanding business relationship with Paragon Gaming Inc., the Las Vegas-based firm that recently inked a deal to build a mega casino in Vancouver, Public Eye has exclusively learned.

A spokesperson for Paragon Gaming has stated T. Richard Turner wasn't involved in securing that deal. However, he will continue to be involved with the company that will oversee that new entertainment complex.

Turner is a provincial Liberal donor and was chair of the British Columbia Lottery Corp. until he resigned on Dec. 9, 2005.

Seven months later, he became one of the directors of the Paragon Gaming division that purchased Vancouver's Edgewater Casino on Sept. 1, 2006 following negotiations dating back to at least May of that year.

That firm, Paragon BC ULC, amalgamated with a numbered company on Oct. 31, 2006 to become Edgewater Casino ULC.

Turner serves on the board of the amalgamated company - which operates the casino - along with Paragon Gaming co-founders Diana Bennett and Scott Mentke.

Paragon Gaming spokesperson Naomi Strasser described Turner as a "minority investor" in Edgewater who is "not active" in the casino's "day to day operations." Although Paragon Gaming does "appreciate his role within our company."

Last week, the government announced one of Paragon Gaming's other divisions, Paragon Development Inc., had signed a 70-year lease agreement with PavCo to develop an entertainment complex attached to BC Place.

PavCo is the Crown corporation that runs the stadium.

The $450-million complex will feature two hotels and a casino with up to 1,500 slot machines and 150 tables, subject to municipal approval,

According to a government news release, Edgewater Casino, which has 493 slot machines and 65 tables, will close once the new complex is ready for occupation.

Paragon won the right to develop that complex following a "competitive bidding process that attracted multiple proposals."

Strasser stated Turner "was not involved in Paragon's response to the public request for proposals for the development of the lands surrounding BC Place."

However, he "will continue as a member of the board of directors for the new entertainment destination at BC Place."

The insurance corporation declined comment on Turner's relationship with Paragon because "this is not an ICBC issue."

Turner was "not available" to speak with Public Eye, according to Cheryl Nelson, the office manager at his company TitanStar Capital Corp.

PavCo didn't respond to a request for comment by deadline.

According to Elections British Columbia, Turner has personally contributed $17,600 to British Columbia's governing party between 2005 and the recent election period.

His companies TitanStar Capital and TitanStar Holdings Inc. have donated a further $52,400.

Of that amount, $50,000 was recorded as being contributed on May 12, 2009 - just as British Columbians were headed to the polls.

The Campbell administration appointed Turner chair of BCLC in Dec. 2001. He was named chair of ICBC in Dec. 2003.

Turner was also a board member for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

The house always wins

British Columbia Lottery Corp. wants to keep its cards even closer to its chest.

The Crown corporation is recommending dramatic legal changes that would make it even more difficult for British Columbians to find out its secrets.

Under the province's existing freedom of information legislation, BCLC can refuse to release information that could result that would result in "undue financial loss or gain" for a third party.

But the corporation, in a submission to the committee of MLAs reviewing that legislation, argues there "should be a broader acceptance of its records having potential commercial value. "

The reason: because it operates in a business environment where competitors in other jurisdiction may not be subject to freedom of information requests.

As a result, it wants to be able to refuse to release information could result in "any financial loss or gain" for a third party.

The corporation is also asking for the power to impede those who file a "large or complex volume of requests... over a short time frame."

And it no longer wants to be required to disclose its policy manuals to whoever asks for them, regardless of whether they've filed a freedom of information request.

Fancy that!

Sean Holman is editor of the online provincial political news journal Public Eye (publiceyeonline.com). He can be reached at editorial@publiceyeonline.com.

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