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Thoughts on whether Toronto should license a casino downtown

February 19, 2013

I don’t know if building a casino is ever a good thing or not. A couple of years ago, I visited Casino Rama (about two hours’ drive north of Toronto) to see a show there. It was quite a depressing experience for me to be on the gaming floor and see what people can do to themselves all day long in the confines of that sort of establishment. I suppose that’s a matter of personal choice, but it’s not something I feel comfortable being around or supporting. Perhaps it is just human nature to throw oneself into a destructive pattern, but problem gambling is definitely something we as a society should take care to prevent from worsening, and building a casino would certainly seem to be the opposite of that.

I’m not against gambling entirely; I partake in friendly bets with my buddies and the occasional game of chance. Our provincial government uses Ontario Lottery & Gaming funds for a significant portion of its budget, so gambling is already an important public revenue stream for us Torontonians. What I am concerned about is that Toronto desperately needs more public money to clear snow off of its streets and keep the TTC running at a functional level, or else we’ll be plunged into chaos the next time we have a big winter storm again. Seeing as there is no real political will on city council to raise taxes, this casino development prospect is where the conversation has arrived.

It’d be probably yet another colossal waste of amazing waterfront real estate to build a casino there, however. Will it attract crime and other public nuisances? Maybe, but who can say for certain? I do know that it’s definitely not going to raise property values in the area. We as a city have suffered too often from short-sighted decisions on how to plan and zone for development as density continues to rise in the downtown core. Let’s think carefully and make the right decision about how to keep our city’s growth sustainable and not increase human misery while we’re at it.

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