FACT: A mega-casino will be built in downtown Toronto if we don’t stop it. City council will be voting on this in the next six weeks. This is really happening and it’s happening now.
You don’t have to be opposed to legalized gambling or casinos in general to not want one in our city. I’m not opposed to strip clubs or lap dancing, for example, but that doesn’t mean I want to build a giant sex emporium to serve as the city’s main tourist attraction either.
Here’s why it’s a bad idea:
1. Toronto is a thriving, cosmopolitan city. It’s the economic and cultural hub of our country. It’s home to the Leafs, Blue Jays, Raptors, Argos, Toronto FC and The Rock among other sports teams. People come to Toronto to visit the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Canadian Opera Company, the National Ballet, the Toronto Symphony, the Ontario Science Centre, the CN Tower, the Toronto International Film Festival, the Jazz Festival, Gay Pride and Caribana. They come here to experience a thriving music and live theatre scene, to visit Toronto’s network of multicultural neighbourhoods, to eat at hundreds of top restaurants, to see its parks and beaches and the Toronto Islands and to do so much more. How does a casino — a giant, insular, blinking, money-sucking time warp — jive with our vision of the city? It doesn’t.
2. But don’t we need the money it will generate? No, we don’t. A mega-casino complex is built to be self-sustaining and cut off from the rest of the city. Its raison d’être is to keep people from leaving. Far from bringing customers to local restaurants and hotels, it will likely take them away. We also have yet to see what the taxpayers’ burden will become in the construction of the casino if the private sector fails to raise enough money.
This casino also means the end of the OLG Slots at Woodbine which has successfully partnered with the horse racing industry. That could very well bring about the end of the racetrack altogether, the loss of 4000 gaming jobs, 4800 racetrack jobs and greatly impact over 50,000 other jobs in the racehorse industry as a whole. That’s far more jobs than will be created by the new casino.
What’s more, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) itself has recommended that a few discreet, high-stakes card tables throughout the city would bring in just as much revenue as a casino.
3. Also consider that a destination casino is different from one you pass on your way home from work. You can plan for a trip to Vegas or a night in Niagara Falls, budget accordingly, indulge or even overindulge, then leave it all behind and come back home.
Compare that to the omnipresent allure of a casino a short streetcar jaunt from the office. You might just stop in for a drink after work and play the slots for 20 minutes to unwind, you think. Six hours and your entire savings account later, you have to go home and face your family. Casinos are designed to lure people in, take their money and keep taking it.
I am not making any moral judgement about it necessarily, but I do think it is clear that a mega-casino in our own city will take a devastating toll on the families who live here.
4. And, yes, there will be horrible traffic congestion and the requisite parking spot per slot machine and two spots per employee will dictate a giant moat of a parking lot to keep the rest of the city at a remove. Imagine a giant, dark hole in the heart of the city and think of what else you might like to see there instead.
Please, let’s say NO to a mega-casino in Toronto.
We don’t need one and we don’t want one.
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