Board of Health votes against Ottawa casino expansion

Opposition to the city's casino plans grew louder Monday when the Ottawa Board of Health voted eight to one against expanding gaming operations in Ottawa.

Advisory group votes 8 to 1 against expanding gaming operations

Ottawa Board of Health recommends against pursuing expanded casino operations in the city. 2:14

Opposition to the city's casino plans grew louder Monday when the Ottawa Board of Health voted eight to one against expanding gaming operations in Ottawa.

The board of health made the decision after reviewing an Ottawa Public Health report warning that more gaming facilities in the city would likely lead to a rise in gambling addiction and related health issues.

The board also heard from a number of delegations, who all spoke out against casino expansion.

One woman, who identified herself only as Elaine to protect the identity of her son, said she is the mother of an addicted gambler and said gambling has ripped her home apart.

"Despite going for treatment and having a supportive immediate and extended family, he continues to fight the temptation to gamble and the consequences of huge financial losses," she said.

Report calls for increase in addiction funding

The public health report found there was a sizeable gap between the 13,000 or so adults who have a gambling problem in the city and the resources available to help them.

"We expect that creating new opportunities to gamble might worsen the problem, so it's reasonable to say let's not, let's address the problem that's already there," said the city's chief medical officer, Dr. Isra Levy.

The report also recommended asking the province for $2 million a year to the Champlain Local Integrated Health Network (LHIN) for local gambling treatment, an increase from the $741,000 it currently receives.

It's also asking that 6.5 per cent of Ottawa’s annual commission from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) go toward gambling prevention and outreach.

Coun. Diane Holmes, the chair of the board of health, was swayed by the report and said OLG should provide more money to treat addiction.

"We are asking for a paltry $2 million … of their $6.6 billion. It's a very, very minor request," she said.

Finance committee to talk casino plans on Monday

While the board acts only as an advisory body to city council, their findings and recommendations could sway future votes concerning the city's casino plans.

The City of Ottawa is one of many municipalities the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation reached out to looking for potential partners in opening new gaming facilities.

OLG had told the city it wanted only one casino in the city, but Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has expressed a desire to reach out to Premier Kathleen Wynne and to the OLG about having two casino sites so that Rideau Carleton Raceway could continue to function as a gaming centre.

Next Monday the city's finance and economic development committee will meet to debate those plans.