If Hamilton does get a casino, it shouldn't be open 24 hours and should have a mandatory card system so players can keep track of the money they've lost, the city's medical officer of health says.

In a report to the city's board of health Monday afternoon, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson recommended a number of ways a potential casino could limit the amount of problem gambling.

"This is one of the many, many decisions that council needs to make with a full understanding of what some of the benefits and risks are, and make sure some plans are in place to mitigate those risks," Richardson said.

City councillors are grappling with the idea of a casino in light of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation's modernization process. The OLG currently has 801 slots at Flamboro Downs, and its lease expires in March. But Hamilton has until late February to determine if it welcomes gaming elsewhere in Hamilton.

Among Richardson's recommendations for a potential casino:

  • Limit the hours of casino operation. Close it at least six hours a day. "You need to take a break from it," she said.
  • Implement a mandatory player card system that issues monthly patron statements that compare the personal record of loss, frequency and duration of play. "It helps people track over time how much they're spending and give that information back to them," she said.
  • Restrict the number of electronic gaming machines and slow down the speed of play.
  • Implement a maximum bet size and daily loss minimum.

Richardson's report shows that 1 per cent of Hamiltonians — or about 5,006 people — experience "moderate to high-risk problems" as a result of gambling. In Ontario, it's 1.2 to 3.4 per cent of individuals.

The rate of addiction varies according to access to gambling, the type of games, hours of operation and access to money, the report said.

Richardson also recommends council ask the province to commission a research study about the health, social and economic costs of casinos.

Youth, seniors, Aboriginal communities, men and people who experience an early win are particularly susceptible to problem gambling, the report said.

Councillors asked a few questions before referring the report to the next gaming subcommittee meeting.

Mayor Bob Bratina wanted more time to mull over the report.

"I find nothing in here I really have issue with but I haven't really had a chance to get through this."

The University of Las Vegas has been studying the impact of a casino resort on the Greater Toronto Area.

The university released a report Monday saying casinos do not cause more crime than any other tourist draw, such as hockey games or large exhibitions.

"The notion that casinos increase the individual risk of crime is not supported in the research," wrote researchers Bo Bernhard and Kahlil Philander.

"We can conclude that a GTA casino should not cause any increased risk of crime-related harm to area residents."