City councillors want to use pollsters to gauge whether Hamilton residents support bringing a casino to the city.
A city subcommittee met for the first time Tuesday and high on the agenda was determining the best, most accurate way of collecting public opinion on the issue.
“We’ve already had a couple of councillors engaging in (collecting) public input,” Mayor Bob Bratina said.
“I think it would be helpful for this subcommittee to recommend what range of measurement would be acceptable.”
The subcommittee passed a recommendation to council to create public education prior to telephone pollsters collecting public opinion.
Councillor Terry Whitehead (Ward 8) said he has used robocalls in his ward to collect public opinion and stressed the need for education, as many people don’t know all the facts.
“Some (people) don’t even know this is occurring in the City of Hamilton,” he said.
“There’s some ignorance out there. Before we embark on direct feedback to the questions, we should have some education.”
The subcommittee was formed to help council tackle the ongoing decision posited by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission on whether or not to have gaming facilities in Hamilton.
Currently, there are slot machines at Flamboro Downs race track, but the OLG is ending its Slots at Racetracks program in March, eliminating the Flamboro slots and costing the city $4.4 million in annual revenue.
As part of its continued revamping, the OLG is giving municipalities around the province the opportunity to support gaming in their city or not, which is what council must decide by late December.
Along with public input, the subcommittee wants to meet with OLG president Paul Godfrey to iron out some of the finer points of the process, including limitations on where a casino could be built and the potential for employment loss.
“Those are tough questions and they require, most of all, a lot of good information,” Bratina said.
“We have to find it in our hearts and our consciences and our brains to weigh everything and make the best decision for the city.”
The hour-long meeting concluded with a motion to make future agendas public and have meetings of this particular subcommittee streamed online, given the high interest of the public.
Meanwhile, NDP leader Andrea Horwath will be at city hall Wednesday morning to encourage city council to hold a referendum on whether to open a casino in the city.