Addiction experts concerned about Ottawa casino plan
Posted: Sep 25, 2012 8:45 PM ET
Last Updated: Sep 25, 2012 8:42 PM ET
People who counsel gambling addicts say plans to bring a casino to Ottawa could increase the number of people who become addicted.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and several councillors are in favour of a new gaming facility because revenue is being lost to Casino Lac Leamy in Gatineau.
The mayor said revenue generated from an Ottawa casino would help pay for infrastructure repairs and job creation.
But others, such as problem gambling counsellor Dallas Smith at Ottawa's Centretown Community Health Centre, worry another casino closer to home will encourage more gambling.
"A number of studies around the world have shown that accessibility is one of the risk factors associated with developing a problem with gambling," said Smith.
Smith helps seniors, some of whom lose thousands of dollars a year gambling and said an Ottawa casino with shuttle buses and billboard advertisements are visual triggers that lure gambling addicts.
Paul Welsh, who heads Rideauwood Addiction Services, agrees.
Problem gamblers lost $36K in 6 months
"There will be more bankruptcies, more crime, more family dysfunction, more suicides ... because they go hand in hand with more gambling," said Welsh.
Welsh said his agency recently surveyed 500 male gamblers who came to Rideauwood for treatment. He said in the six months prior to coming each lost an average of $36,000.
Welsh said governments don't see those figures when they talk about opening new casinos.
"I mean it's the politicians that have to make the cost benefit decisions and the revenue that's provided to treat those problems is never adequate to the level of the problem," he said.
Welsh said if Ottawa gets a casino he's certain that the waiting list for treatment at Rideauwood will grow much longer.
Finance committee to discuss report next week
Watson said Monday he would ask city council to signal interest in a new gaming facility, a move that would allow the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation to seek proposals from potential operators.
A staff report will be discussed on Oct. 2 at the next finance and economic development committee meeting, which will include public delegations and be held in the evening to allow residents to attend.
If council approves the report on Oct. 10, Watson said he will write a letter to OLG to signal the city would be supportive of a gaming facility in principle. While not committing the city, it would allow the OLG to issue a request for proposals from potential operators.
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