Updated: May 5

On Tuesday night, I spoke at the second meeting held by Kitchener City Council to help it decide whether the city is open to hosting a casino.

What follows is my planned presentation.

It’s not too late to contact city council and let them know your perspective on this issue. Ask them how they will vote on May 13.

Make your voice heard at Regional Council too. I originally missed including that in this post. You can contact them individually or speak to them as a group at the May 8 meeting.

Why would we break people only to try to repair them?

I oppose a casino. I oppose a casino in Kitchener. I oppose a casino in Woolwich. I oppose a casino anywhere in Waterloo Region. In fact, I oppose any expansion of casinos in Ontario.

I really should have come to speak last week because since then Regional Chair Seiling has stolen my thunder. I planned to come tonight and ask you to pass a motion requesting that Regional Council vote on whether this area is a willing host to a casino.

Instead, I appeal to Mayor Zehr as a member of Regional Council to support the Regional Chair and for the rest of council to speak to their counterparts from Kitchener to share what you’ve been hearing.

At least one member of Regional Council believes the motion is inappropriate but given that the responsibility for dealing with the social costs of problem gambling fall are paid with regional tax dollars, I believe the Region of Waterloo must take a position. (Note: I’m not alone. Luisa D’amato agrees.)

Considering that our region is one of the few left in Ontario with two levels of municipal government, I believe OLG is dealing in bad faith with our community by not dealing with our region as one community. Rather they prefer to wave dollar signs and pit community against community.

Indeed, we would not be here tonight if it were not for Woolwich’s decision. While I understand that public consultations were difficult to oppose, there was neither appetite for them nor any request to hold them despite the consultations happening in Woolwich. I think that indicates the lack of interest in having a casino in Kitchener.

Why? A casino just doesn’t fit with the culture of our community as captured by our city’s motto “Industry before prosperity.”

We have a strategic plan for Kitchener. We want to build a healthy community. This direction, approved by council, is the result of a series of public consultations held by Compass Kitchener and polling to get a wider perspective on what kind of Kitchener citizens want. If we are to be open to hosting a casino, I believe it’s important to connect that decision to how it makes our city a safe and healthy community—as is routine with all matters before council.

In the words of Richard Florida whose theories on attracting and maintaining the creative class have shaped our city’s economic development strategy:

There are lots of things that economic development experts disagree about …

But about one thing, urbanists across the ideological spectrum are unanimous. And that is that building casinos, especially in an already thriving downtown, is a truly terrible idea.

If any other business looked to council for support and admitted that it’s product was connected to an increase in suicide and bankruptcy, the answer would be no.

We know there are social costs associated with problem gambling. No amount of money can mitigate those negative consequences.

Why would we break people—and their loved ones who are also victims—only to try to repair them?

Say no to a casino in KitchenerSay no to a casino in Waterloo Region!

Update May 7: City advisory committees weigh in on casino bid

Read why Compass Kitchener says a casino breaches the city’s strategic plan and why it would work against building a safe & healthy community.

photo credit: Alfonso Jiménez via photopin cc


12 thoughts on “Say no to a casino in Waterloo Region

  1. Well said, James! We absolutely agree with you. I trust that our council will do the right thing. Best, Lorna and John

  2. I agree that a casino is not part of our branding and I too disagree with the provincial governments alarming program for casino expansion. However, given that Ontario has this agenda, and given that Woolwich has voted in favour of hosting a casino, all of these nice folks who are urging Kitchener to reject it are ignoring the fact that it could well be built next door to us anyway. Only Woolwich would get the $4 million dollars per year. Or we could tuck it into a conference centre at Bingamen’s and control it and collect the money for our own community. I have played poker in dozens of casinos in Canada and the USA and you could tuck one into a conference centre and no one would really notice it. Calgary has four casinos and they are not part of its “branding” as a city, they are just “there”. Vancouver has two or three and they are not part of its branding either. No one things of “Vancouver, the city with those bad casinos”.

    “We know there are social costs associated with problem gambling. No amount of money can mitigate those negative consequences.” The same could be said for selling alcohol.

  3. Thanks for your thought Ted! I wasn’t making a branding reference (i.e. what people think about us). I was making a point that it doesn’t fit with the culture of our community.

    Yes a casino could be built in Woolwich. That’s why I’m urging people to contact Regional Council to show that as a region, we don’t want a casino especially if a small municipality gets all the funds and the regional municipality bears all the costs. OLG should listen to the region as a whole even if it doesn’t need to.

    But Woolwich may not get a casino. Our “gaming district” is bigger than Waterloo Region. I understand that Elora has indicated its interest and given it’s race track/slots facility that may have an advantage over the locations Woolwich suggests.

    A casino doesn’t collect money for our community. The vast majority leaves the community yet takes away spending that would otherwise stay in our community.

    We do need a conference centre but I think it’s critical that it be on the LRT route. If Bingeman’s would like to build one and they can pay for it, they should go ahead–but I don’t think any government money should help to make that happen.

    In the end though, we can only control what is within our control and so I’d like to see the City of Kitchener say no and for the Region to do the same.

  4. I think the “best” option would be to simply expand the existing Elora casino. I also abhor the Provincial government’s “divide and conquer” strategy.

  5. I for one am TERRIBLY DISAPPOINTED that there will be no Casino located in KW…I was really hoping for another after-hours air-conditioned venue where I might escape the choking, acrid, cancer-causing smoke from my neighbours’ (ILLEGAL) backyard fireplaces. There are no movies worth seeing, and the employees at Shoppers Drug Mart and Sobeys are beginning to think I’m homeless – Which is actually how I’m starting to feel!!!
    So glad to see our Medical Officer of Health has finally found her voice to speak out against all the “social” ills that accompany gambling addiction, yet never once spoke up to address the proven “physical” ills that are caused bysmoke from wood fires…particularly to children and unborn babies (Columbia University 7-year study) . Guess she hasn’t figured out that if someone’s really addicted to, or interesting in gambling they’ll find some way to do it!

    Also, it should be noted that one does not have to have a pre-existing medical condition to suffer negative health consequences from exposure to wood smoke. The smoke itself contains sufficient toxins to contribute to the development of a number of serious medical conditions. Considering that we live adjacent to the 401, the expressway, and that KW lies in the path of industrial pollution”fallout” from the U.S., most residents already have a considerable exposure to airborne toxins and carcinogens, SO WHY ADD ONE MORE that releases it’s evil right at ground level where it is so easily taken into our bodies????
    Doesn’t anyone see the irony in the fact that smoking is banned in Ontario in public because it exposes others to second-hand smoke, yet Kitchener allows people to light wood fires (which emits the equivalent to 9,000 cigarettes-worth of toxins in an hour!!!) That our vehicles are required to pass an emissions test prior to licensing, yet Kitchener allows people to burn backyard wood fires which release EXACTLY THE SAME DANGEROUS CHEMICALS as your cars’ exhaust (plus a few more).

    Now before you peg me as some anti-social grinch who hates to see anyone having a good time, you should know that I’m an avid camper and have fond memories of childhood family camping trips- and yes, I enjoy a campfire and a s’more or two – IN THE RIGHT SETTING. When I’m camping I EXPECT to smell smoke, whether from my own or my neighbours’ fires. It’s a treat, something special to be looked forward to…living “outdoors” for a FEW DAYS each summer – a chance to get in touch with my inner pioneer.
    But seeing/smelling wood smoke INSIDE MY HOME on an almost DAILY BASIS is another matter entirely! My furniture, draperies, carpets, bedding and even the clothes in my closet gradually take on a bitter, smokey odour. I am unable to open my windows (no central air) to allow ventilation. In the peak of the summers’ heat, temperatures on the upper floor of my home are often 40+ C.!!!! My windows are covered in a film of soot, the siding on my house is stained, my car is sometimes sprinkled with ash. I awake in the morning with searing pain in my nose and throat, burning and watering eyes, and occasionally (and most frightening of all) heart arrhythmia and shortness of breath!

    Could someone please explain to me how the perceived “right” some claim to have an open bonfire in an urban backyard overrides my right to enjoy my home, live a healthy lifestyle (hopefully for a long time!) in a city and environment that promotes just that?

    This is pretty long-winded for a blog, and I know the discussion on this topic has been “closed”…but I really feel in my heart (when it’s beating normally, that is!) that this issue is far too important to be swept aside, or considered a “fait accompli”. As a health care professional I would be remiss in my sworn obligation to my community in general and my patients (mostly pregnant women) in particular, if I failed to speak out against backyard fires. Regardless of the impact the smoke and fires have on my life, the risks to my patients and their little ones is far greater – and I believe (hope!) that most of those in favour of backyard fires have previously been unaware of these risks. Perhaps educating the public on the hazards of wood smoke is the answer to this dilemma, and will finally result in our city council making it their first priority to protect the health and wellbeing of the citizens they serve.

    A quote from the City of Kitchener webpage: “The City of Kitchener shares a common goal with our residents: to make our community safe, healthy and enjoyable for everyone.” Really????

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience Debra. While I understand your concern, I don’t believe it is a reason to have a casino.

      It’s too bad that my firepit post is closed to comment. I have that set to happen automatically after a certain period of time.

      I have supported addressing problems with fire pits through bylaw enforcement and mediation so I hope you can find a way to resolve your situation.

      1. Oh…that first bit about taking refuge in the casino was totally tongue-in-cheek. My first career was as a writer…I must be losing my touch!
        Although going to a casino is a matter of choice; breathing toxic air apparently is not (at least in Kitchener).
        Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

  6. Some links to further information on the harmful effects of wood smoke

    I also live (and work) in the Central Frederick area; if any of you good folk out there are interested in learning more, or helping out with my efforts to spread the word, please be in touch.

  7. James: Are you equally concerned with the high rate of obesity in our Waterloo Region? If so, would it not be advisable to remove all of the fast food restaurants in the area? While you’re at it you could get rid of all the LCBO outlets and beer stores and that should put and end to alcoholism. Or, just maybe, it’s more reasonable to say that casinos aren’t responsible for problem gambling and that individuals need to be responsible for their own behavior. People opposing the proposed casino are beginning to sound like Chicken Little running around saying ‘the sky is falling!’

    1. I am concerned about the high rate of obesity and people who have problems with alcohol. While there may be a legit comparison with gambling in general, they don’t apply to a casino since gambling will continue to exist. Your examples would also mean banning establishments that already exist in our community. A casino doesn’t exist yet. We have the chance to get it right and keep it out of our community.I haven’t called for the elimination of existing casinos so people in Ontario still have access to them if desired; But do we really need one in every major population centre?

      The OLG is looking to expand not to meet a pent up demand but to make more money by making it easier for more people to lose more money quicker. We need to draw a line and say enough is enough. Rather than increase our dependence upon gambling revenues we should make do with the status quo and take a serious look at reducing our dependence upon revenues that too often come from people who can’t afford their losses and get nothing in return.

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