Casinos in Peterborough – A perspective from the NO side of the debate

By Sheila Nabigon-Howlett, Provincial Women's Representative (and No Casino Peterborough Organizer)

In 2012, Ontario Lotto and Gaming launched its Modernization Plan. OLG, the fourth largest Crown Corporation in Ontario has ensnared local governments across the province in the gambling industry for years and is now expanding ostensibly to help municipalities get much needed revenues. However, “The important thing to remember about gambling is that it is a type of industry that simply involves a transfer of wealth, not a creation of wealth. Any revenue from gambling has to come from other parts of the economy” (Dr. Robert Williams, Alberta Gaming Research Institute). Referring to OLG’s new Modernization Plan (expanding casinos to 29 in every corner of Ontario) Dr. Williams says that OLG's change in strategy, “is analogous to an addict running out of veins to tap." What political party is brave enough to challenge this way of getting revenue? Where are the arguments for fair taxation as opposed to exploitation of the vulnerable?

 

No Casino Peterborough (NCP) is a group of Peterborough citizens opposed to the establishment of a casino in the city of Peterborough. Through extensive public outreach. NCP has found that the majority of citizens are against a casino, yet, despite this, City Council voted 10-1 March 18th, 2013 to support the proposal of OLG (Ontario Lottery and Gaming) to host a casino in Peterborough.  Most of the ten council members who voted yes to a casino said that they did so because of financial and employment benefits to the city.

No Casino Peterborough has found, as they researched gambling in Ontario, in Canada, indeed globally, that governments have in fact become addicted to gambling revenues. Battling a Goliath and having no illusions that state-sponsored gambling is going to end any time soon, NCP intends to protect Peterborough from the onslaught of a well-funded, self-interested public relations campaign. NCP cherishes the dignity and beauty of Peterborough and believe the City and its people would suffer horrible consequences with the introduction of a new Casino. The poor, the vulnerable, the well-deserved reputation of Peterborough as “A Natural” and a vibrant centre of the arts are all at stake.

 

NCP also questions the claims that a casino would be a financial boon for the city.  In the 1970's, when casinos were first introduced into Ontario, there were financial benefits both for the hosting communities and for the Ontario government.  The financial advantage for the Ontario government continues.  However, the financial advantage to the hosting community has been lost.  The first casinos were placed in border cities to draw most of their gamblers and revenue from the U.S.  This was money that came from outside the local community, and from outside Ontario, and so was a profit to both the Ontario government and to the local community. Now, with so many casinos being pushed by OLG, each one will draw its customers from the local community.

 

Over the past six years, attendance at Windsor, Orillia and Niagara Falls’ casinos has decreased by 25% and they have lost a combined $360 million.  In spite of this, this type of casino is exactly what is being proposed for Peterborough and the 28 other communities in Ontario. The slot machines at Kawartha Downs would be closed.  A casino with slot machines, plus various table games, including black jack, roulette, craps, baccarat, as well as a private poker room and high limit rooms would be opened. There is always the possibility of a restaurant and hotel being offered as part of the package. This casino would not be run by the OLG but by a private casino consortium, almost certainly based in the U.S. who would write their healthy profit expectations into the agreement before Peterborough sees a dollar.  If the proposal does include a restaurant and hotel, revenue will be lost to the city from the businesses in Peterborough that would inevitably close.

 

Approximately 5% of the gambling revenue would go to Peterborough (it is not clear if this is would translate to 5% of the total revenue or 5% of what is left after the owners take their share). With the projected and extremely optimistic figures presented by OLG, this would be about $4 million dollars, which would represent about a 2% budget increase in Peterborough.  This is not a figure to make our taxes go down.

 

The Martin Prosperity Institute (Rotman School of Management- University of Toronto) has identified 27 studies which indicate that the costs produced by casinos outweigh the benefits by two to seven times. Research in Massachusetts by Baxandall and Sacerdote, comparing counties with and without casinos, suggested that “The changes in total revenues and spending by municipal governments in areas where casinos opened were not significantly different from non casino areas. Spending on roads, police and education was also unaffected.”

 

As to job-creation, NCP has learned that at least half of the jobs at a new casino here would be those transferred from the closed-out Slots at Cavan-Monaghan. Under a privatized new system planned by OLG, the jobs would be non-unionized and probably low-paying; top jobs would go to the operator’s imported personnel. There are always ups and downs in the economy; while unemployment figures fluctuate widely; Peterborough is in fact in a strong financial situation right now: “City of Peterborough granted an impressive AA credit rating” headlines Peterborough This Week, Jan 2nd, 2014.

 

The economic arguments for a casino are unconvincing at best. However, the social arguments against a casino are overwhelming for anyone who has the common good of the people in mind. No Casino Peterborough states the detrimental social costs of state-sponsored gambling are paramount. Gambling addictions increase when a casino is close by. It is estimated that every problem/addicted gambler costs the community from $20,000 to $56,000 per year in health and social services. Studies of casino employees have found a three fold increase in rates of problem gambling, as well as higher rates of alcoholism, smoking and depression than in the general adult population.

 

And, stated on the OLG website (Knowyourlimit.ca), the house always wins.  “With the possible exception of professional blackjack and poker players, over time every casino game played results in a loss for the player.  While any single bet can result in a win at any time, loss is inevitable in all casino games over time.  No system of betting can overcome the house advantage.”

 

 

Virtually all the social problems that result from gambling come from the problem/addicted gambler. OLG continually stresses that the vast majority of gamblers are not addicted to gambling – true.  By most estimates, only 1 to 3% of the people who gamble have a problem (that percentage is 4-6% in the immediate vicinity of a casino.) What the OLG does not say is that, for casinos to be profitable, they must have those small percentage of addicted gamblers. Casino revenues are dependent on those addicted. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, as much as 30 to 40 per cent of casinos’ revenue comes from problem gamblers. A casino can only make a profit by promoting and catering to problem gamblers.  The OLG do this shamelessly, spending $500 million a year on incentives, rewards, marketing and promotion aimed at problem gamblers.

 

This is a stated policy of the OLG – a branch of the Ontario government.  Our present government clearly says that we will continue to support and encourage casinos, knowing that they can only make a profit by encouraging people to become and remain addicted to gambling. Where does the Ontario NDP stand on this?

 

Even more shamelessly, as profits go down, the OLG is extending their reach to new populations. "OLG is continuing to work on broadening its player base to ensure it includes the younger generation of adults as well as new Canadians. The introduction of POKER LOTTO was the first of a series of planned innovative product developments designed to appeal to these important demographic groups."  (2010/2011 OLG Annual Report)

 

Trent University and Fleming College students are already being targeted through a devious program called “kts.2.ca” which purports to warn students about the dangers of addictive gambling but in fact, it aims to normalize all gambling, knowing the gambling industry will thereby get their necessary quota of addicts.

 

Time and time again, the citizens of Peterborough have rejected the introduction of a Casino within Peterborough City limits. In the 1997 citizen’s referendum (held as part of the municipal elections) 65% of Peterborough voters voted against a casino in Peterborough.

 

On March 5th and 18th 2013, public meetings were well attended and there were passionate and overwhelming objections to a casino.

 

In April 2013, the Peterborough Examiner did a poll with 64% objection to a casino.

 

In a May 2013 scientific random telephone survey by Professor Trevor Denton, 68% objected to a casino.

 

Letters to the editor in both city papers have overwhelmingly been against the project and 2300 people in Peterborough signed a hard-copy petition opposed to a casino.

 

The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce did a survey of the business community in 2013, asking them how they felt a casino in Peterborough would impact their business.  Only 30% felt a casino would have a positive impact on their business.   This Peterborough Chamber of Commerce report made many recommendations.  One of them was that there must be a majority approval of city residents for a casino.

 

The Peterborough County-City Health Unit presented a comprehensive paper outlining the detrimental effects on citizens when a casino comes into the community. “Problem gambling is a significant source of family breakdown, divorce, lost productivity, job loss and bankruptcy…lower income people contribute disproportionately to gambling revenue than those with middle or higher income…our governments – federal, provincial and municipal- should protect the most vulnerable in our society from casinos which exploit human weaknesses and addictions. We therefore call on Mayor and City Council to reject a casino in Peterborough. We also say to the OLG we do not want a casino in Peterborough”.

 

The faith leaders in Peterborough (all Christian denominations represented, plus others e.g. Muslim, Jewish, Unitarian) are opposed:

“We stand united in opposing a casino for Peterborough…We are unified in our position that gambling is contrary to the ethical norms of our traditions because it negatively impacts our faith communities and the wider public…Our faith traditions teach us that our governments should maintain order, preserve justice and promote the common good…our governments should reject the illusion of easy money, for both individuals and public coffers…We therefore call upon our Peterborough City Council to reject gambling expansion and reject this predatory industry as a solution to economic and fiscal problems”. Bishop de Angelis published a strong Pastoral Letter to all R.C. parishes “convinced that gambling leads not to prosperity but to breaking up of families and to spiritual and social poverty”.

 

The Greater Peterborough and Area Economic Development Council promotes the city as “connected to the outdoors with a vibrant downtown, lively local culture and healthy mixed economy.”  A casino does not promote any of the things on that list and will, in fact, detract from them.

 

In conclusion, No Casino Peterborough is committed, for as long as it takes, to keeping the casino out of our city. “We have little or no say in what goes on elsewhere, but we can exercise our democratic rights by carrying the will of the people forward through this community-based organization.”

 

No Casino Peterborough

Do you like this post?

Showing 1 reaction


commented 2015-09-05 03:08:09 -0400 · Flag
Wish the rest of Canada join and share the citizens of Peterborough to stop the nuisance of casinos all over Canada. It will help stop families going bankrupt and falling apart due to addiction problems that casinos bring along. Casinos are a menace!