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Do the benefits of building casinos outweigh the risks?

Categories: Canada, Community

Residents of several Canadian cities are debating the merits of opening casinos, weighing the benefits of increased revenue, employment and tourism with the risks associated with gambling. 

 Cities are debating the costs and benefits of approving casino projects. (Canadian Press)At a public information session in Toronto Monday night, Mayor Rob Ford reiterated his support for a development plan featuring a downtown casino. 

"If we can create 10,000 or more good-paying, union jobs and bring in revenue of $200 million, which they're projecting, I just don't see how people can say no to that," said Ford. 

According to a report presented by Toronto's city manager, the expected hosting fees -- the portion of gaming revenue that is distributed to the city  -- could be anywhere from $16 to $168 million annually, depending on whether a casino or "integrated entertainment complex" is built. 

In Surrey, B.C., Monday night, city council debated a controversial development that would include a casino, four-star hotel, 800-seat theatre and a conference centre.  

Those against the project argue the complex would have a heavy impact on what is mostly a rural, residential community, increasing crime and traffic while lowering property values.

But those in favour, many of whom are already employed by casinos, say the project will bring much needed amenities and keep jobs in the city.

In Hamilton, Ont., activists are gearing up for rallies against a casino there at public foums scheduled for this week. Organizer Matthew Green says a downtown casino would cause the city social and economic harm. "We want to galvanize people and we want to ask hard questions," he said. 

In Ottawa, city council voted in October to proceed with a plan to bring a casino to the capital region. The Ontario Lottery Gaming Corporation opened the doors to bids on a new gambling facility there in November. 

Critics there are pointing the experience of Canada's first downtown casino in Windsor, Ont., which opened in 1998. At its peak, Caesars Windsor employed 5,000 people, but that's now down to 2,927

The recession, the high Canadian dollar and the opening of new gaming complexes across the river in Detroit have hurt the casino's business. Windsor also has the highest unemployment rate of any major Canadian city at 10 per cent. 

Another Ontario city, Brantford, is weighing the impact of its OLG casino, built in 1999. Since then, the city has brought in nearly $50 million from its share of casino revenue. It has used more than $14 million of it to improve the city's downtown. 

Mayor Chris Friel was initially a casino opponent, but now credits the facility for downtown Brantford's transition.

But Lindsay Serbu, supervisor of adult mental health crisis services at St. Leonard's Community Services, says most of the people she counsels for gambling addictions play slots at Brantford's OLG Casino

What do you think? Do the benefits of building casinos outweigh the risks? Let us know in the comments below. 



(This survey is not scientific. Results are based on readers' responses.)

Tags: B.C., Canada, money, Politics, POV, Toronto

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