A gamble not worth taking? Sudbury anti-casino movement gets over 2k signatures
About 75 people took part in a public meeting last night in Sudbury to discuss whether the city should move forward with a new casino.
The meeting was organized by a group called No Casino Sudbury, co-funded by Sudbury business owner Ruby Lougheed Yawney, who says they've collected more than 2,000 signatures from residents who are opposed to the new gambling facility.
"It's actually 5 times the amount that No Casino Toronto got that successfully defeated the casino in Toronto," Lougheed Yawney said, referring to the 2013 push against a mega-casino in the province's capital.
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Gateway Casinos has stated that it's looking forward to building a casino on the site of the proposed True North Centre on the Kingsway.
Gateway, a British Columbia-based entertainment company, currently operates the slot machines at Sudbury Downs.
The city has already green lighted the Kingsway site as the location for its new arena and has also approved preliminary designs for the facility. But No Casino Sudbury argues that the plan to build one on the Kingsway would hurt the local economy, and potentially increase problem gambling.
Brigitte Beckett, who attended last night's meeting, said combining a casino with a family-friendly centre like a hockey arena, deserves a second look by city council.
"I'm not really comfortable with the idea of gambling, which should be something firmly restricted for adults, in a place where people are going to go for family entertainment in general," Beckett said.
"That just doesn't sit right with me."
Charles Tossell, an accessibility-rights activist, said a Kingsway location won't dissuade anyone with a gambling addiction from visiting.
"If it's centralized, it will make it easier for low income earners to get there," Tossell said. "I don't think an arena community centre goes hand in hand with a casino right beside each other."
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About a dozen people took to the microphone to voice their opinion last night, but not everyone in attendance was opposed to the idea of the new casino.
Douglas Thistle, referring to himself as a lifelong Sudbury resident, said he'd welcome a new casino, no matter where it is.
"Even if you go to a movie, you just see people just sitting there staring at a screen, which is no different from people going to the slots," Thistle said. "It's just personally what those people get their enjoyment from."
Councillor Mike Vagnini said he wondered if the opposition might be too little, too late.
"We get groups like this coming out, bringing out different information so I'm just trying to take it all in."
In a statement to CBC News, Gateway said the company "always strives to be a good neighbour and give back to the communities."
"In a time when unregulated gambling is readily available on a smart phone app, we offer gaming and entertainment in a responsible and highly regulated environment that allows adults to be social, enjoy a fun experience with friends or family that may include dining, gaming, live entertainment – or all of the above," the statement said.
No Casino Sudbury now hopes to convince city council to revisit its decision.
With files from Benjamin Aube