When some residents see a casino in downtown Hamilton, they see trouble. Others see the economic potential.

As city councillors debate the costs and benefits, Councillor Jason Farr held a community meeting Thursday night at city hall.

Hamiltonians filled council chambers for a presentation from Farr, other local councillors and community groups. Before the meeting began, residents stood in city hall's second floor lobby holding their own informal debate.

"The downtown core is filled with code red neighbourhoods," said Dave Stevens, who has lived downtown since 1997. "Is that where you want to grow a gambling addiction?"

Like Stevens, Brian Middleton, a resident for over 30 years, said a casino will do more harm than good.

"People are unemployed, people are on welfare, people have addictions," Middleton said. "There is no reason, no sense to a downtown casino. Casinos give people false hope."

Laura and Rocco Galliani, who moved back to Hamilton recently after living in Burlington, said a casino will help turn things around.

"I think it would be good for the downtown area," said Laura. "It will increase property values and create jobs. It will be an incentive for people to invest in Hamilton."

While some residents said they are not against a casino in Hamilton, but it should be in a more rural area to make it a destination.

"Make it an effort to get there instead of walking a couple of blocks and losing a pay cheque," said Middleton. "Gambling addictions are not something to play with."

"A little bit of a bother to get there would curb the problem," said Stevens. Brantford mayor Chris Friel spoke at Thursday's meeting, noting what a downtown casino has down for his city. Bill Simone has lived downtown for 30 years and he's not convinced.

"Brantford is not the same. People there have money and jobs. There is a time and place where you put things. This is not the time for that."

Rachel Braithwaithe, a resident of four years, is concerned not only about poverty rates downtown, but also about its reputation.

"It's all about perception at the end of the day and those from outside won't see it positively," said Rachel Braithwaithe. "[The casino] is not attracting the right clientele."

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