Paterson: We can do better than betting

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There is a real possibility that local casino gambling will be coming to our area. Clearview Township, Wasaga Beach, Collingwood and Springwater Township will be hosting a public information meeting at 7 pm on Tuesday, October 16 at the Wasaga Beach RecPlex. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) will be presenting information on their plans to locate a new gambling facility in one of the four municipalities. Your attendance is important, especially if you have concerns about the impact of casino gambling in your neighbourhood.

Despite the published notices that OLG will present information but will not take questions directly from the public, I have been assured that the purpose for the meeting is to gauge the public reception to local gambling; all questions and concerns will be welcomed by the municipalities.

OLG has stated that a casino will not be located in a community if the municipality decides it doesn’t want one.

Clearview Council has not yet taken a position on a casino in the Township, opting to keep their options open while working with the other three municipalities.

In talking with those in our community who have the responsibility to deal with problem gamblers and their families, I hear very deep concern for their ability to provide an adequate and ongoing public health care response. They stress that a decision to proceed or not with a casino should be informed first and foremost by the public health needs over any promised windfall revenues. One thing that should be asked for is that the four municipalities meet with the health care organizations as part of the overall decision making process.

Clearview has never identified gambling as a means to grow and sustain our community. Through much public consultation on our strategic plan, official plan, master recreation plan and our budgets, a casino or any other form of gaming related activity has not been identified as a priority. It doesn’t fit in our vision for our community. By design, a casino blocks out the appreciation of our natural landscapes, distracts our residents and visitors from participating in our many recreational activities, diverts much needed spending away from our businesses and most concerning of all, does not promote a family-centred lifestyle.

I do not support the Province’s expansion of private-sector gaming. The Province wants casino gambling to become even more of an everyday activity in our community; their new model is a convenience store approach to gambling. To the Province, it’s about raising their net profits from gambling to help pay down deficits. The claimed benefit to communities is that gambling will help deliver services, stimulate community development and create jobs. Sounds good, but unfortunately, the total social costs to care for problem gamblers have not been factored in to determine if indeed a community actually gains from gaming. With the expansion of private sector gaming, provincial development investments end up as casino operator profits. Many of the gaming jobs created are low paying, often part time and short on benefts.

Provincially sponsored gambling is seen by some as harmless fun and a voluntary form of taxation. If you don’t play you don’t pay. Unfortunately, there are many Ontarians who cannot live by that catch phrase; they are addicted to gambling.

The Province knows this very well. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), 3.4 per cent of all Ontarians have a gambling problem. Most startling is the estimate that 30 to 40 per cent of Ontario’s gaming revenue comes from this 3.4 per cent of the population; that’s 2,000 people negatively impacted in our own communities.

We can do better than betting.




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