An Open Letter to Toronto City Councillors with Copies to our Premier and Finance Minister, April 2012
To my City Councillors in Wards 31 and 32:
I realise that the debate on this topic may already be under way today and I am assuming two things: that you have the intention to vote against a casino, any casino, and that you have drawn on the excellent research out there that so completely totally destroys the claims of OLG’s (Ontario Lottery & Gaming) Paul Godfrey and the province’s Finance Minister, Dwight Duncan – making this letter unnecessary. However, I plunge ahead just in case.
I notice that the claims of casino wonders and delights become ever more amusing as the days pass. Now Dwight Duncan talks about a ‘golden mile’ that will revitalise the water front, providing an ‘entertainment destination’ of world-class value. I have a different point of view. Some points to recall:
- You don’t put a casino in a place where you can enjoy the view. You’re not supposed to. You’re supposed to focus on the task at hand: lose as much money as possible as quickly as possible.
- Casinos cannibalise the local economy, they do not contribute to it. Casinos don’t actually produce any commodities to be sold: they vacuum out money from families, neighbourhoods and communities that could be used to buy goods and services and shovel it into the coffers of casino operators and governments (who will use it to reduce the tax burden on the rich). Service jobs created in a casino complex are lost elsewhere in the neighbourhood. Money that could have gone to purchasing a service whose benefits are felt locally is now going to the socially-unproductive activity of gambling, future-fixating impossibility-dreaming. In so doing, they kill jobs and stunt economic growth, to say nothing of moral fibre.
- Casinos have a vampire effect – sucking money from one region temporarily before new casinos are built to suck the money away again. Windsor, Niagara and Rama are all complaining.
- Casinos create problem gambling and create new costs dedicated to the treatment of the problem; the impacts of problem gambling are akin to throwing a stone in still water: rippling outward, encompassing spouses, parents, children, co-workers, neighbours, communities, societies.
- Gambling preys disproportionately on people who are young, female, single-parenting, unemployed, poor, aboriginal, mentally ill, those with multiple addictions. Great. Just perfect.
- Despite Minister Duncan’s sarcastic assurances that we no longer live in the days of Bugsy Siegel – we could only wish for such transparency in corruption – casinos attract unsavoury ‘industry’ of all sorts. No thank you.
- Social policy by gambling turns our province into a pimp for mostly international gambling corporations, which take home the bulk of the profits, and is utterly dependent on millions of us LOSING. Right up there with online gambling and mixed martial arts, this government is now promoting what needs to be controlled or eliminated. Great. Just great. Amoral, manipulative re-packaging of an evil as a social good. Let’s create a widening gap between the rich and poor so that more of the latter see everything from rolling up the rim to lottery tickets to slots as the only way out, governments having abandoned their provision of such exit strategies for the marginalised, and then bet on their need to buy bad-odds hope. Perfect.
- And, last but not least at all: the rise of the casino industry is part of the global casino economy, that funnels wealth in an unfettered trajectory to the top. Since the early 1970s, the finance industry has diverted trillions of dollars daily into the lunacy of the casino economy, now dwarfing the percentage of global resources dedicated to the production of real products in a real economy. In 2008, the croupiers and house managers of the global economy suffered a bit of exposure, their gambling with our money on the capital markets as a legitimate occupation cluck-clucked at for a bit, as their recklessness sent us spinning into the worst transfer outward and upward of our collective wealth since the 1920s. But it didn’t last long before things were back to business-as-usual. And Ontario, not wanting to be left behind in this great leap backward, will add our bit to the creation of a nation of financial speculators and casino operators and their prey.
Like many Torontonians, I got a robo-survey several days ago. In the first few questions I made it clear that NO casino was the only acceptable option IMHO. However, robo-calls are robotic and, if I did not answer the question, well and just exactly where would I like a casino to be built if one were built? – I could not continue and my whole participation in this survey would presumably be rubbished. Assuming that Paul ‘there-WILL-be-a-casino-in-the-GTA-no-matter-what’ Godfrey wrote that question, I said, sure, put it in Etobicoke. But then, I had to ask myself, why would I wish it on Etobicoke? No view? No poor people, single mothers, youth or aboriginal folks to worry about?
No. No-where, please.
Lee A. McKenna