Special Report: Casino

Slow Down You Move Too Fast

Observations on the December 3 Board of Health meeting and how the casino report was handled.

By Graham Crawford
Published December 10, 2012

Some of you know I've been fairly vocal in my opposition to a downtown casino. Some of you may agree with my position, some may not.

The more I read and learn, the stronger my opposition becomes. Permit me five casino-related facts to provide just a bit of context. They are all taken from the report Health and Social Impacts of Gambling [PDF] by Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Medical Officer of Health for the City of Hamilton.

  1. There are over 5,000 problem gamblers in Hamilton.
  2. Last year, 1800 of them reported having suicidal thoughts, and 1000 of them reported suicide attempts.
  3. 36 percent of Ontario gambling revenue is derived from problem gamblers with moderate and severe gambling problems who represent 1% of the population.
  4. Over the next 5 years, two of OLG's stated goals are to decrease the average age of their gambling customers by two years, while increasing the percentage of Ontario residents who gamble from the current 70% to 75%.
  5. Individuals living in a disadvantaged neighborhood had a 90% increase in the odds of being a problem or pathological gambler.

There are many more facts contained in Dr. Richardson's report, but I believe the five I just mentioned will give you some sense for the tone, scope, and focus of the report.

It's pretty compelling, and quite disturbing, reading. That is, if you read it.

Which brings us to the Board of Health meeting held in Council Chambers on December 3. The Board is comprised of all 15 Councillors and the Mayor.

Dr. Richardson's report was distributed to all Councillors on the afternoon of November 29, five days prior to the meeting. I don't know how many had read or not read it other than those who said they had or hadn't. Farr and Partridge had read it. Bratina and Ferguson said they hadn't finished it.

Whitehead made a few comments about research methodology, but not much else. I have no way of knowing about the others because they never said a word about the report. Period.

You can now read the report [PDF] for yourself. It took me about an hour to go through it and to pull excerpts. Longer if I had been trying to also craft questions for Dr. Richardson.

Thanks to Joey Coleman's tireless efforts at live streaming and recording of Committee (and some Sub-Committee) meetings, you can have a look at what went down. BTW, the online agenda from Clerks did not even have Dr. Richardson's report listed or linked. Apparently, it was added later.

I've chosen five clips, each of which begins with a few notes from me.

Watch Councillor Whitehead's hand during this clip while Bratina is talking. It goes up. It goes down. It goes up again before Bratina even asks why his hand is up, or for a mover to receive the report. Highly anticipatory on Terry's part if you ask me.

This is Bratina's point of order interjection. The report has been received. Listen to what the Clerk says about how "fruitful" it would be to ask questions. Bratina wants to be more familiar with the report, although he mentions for the second time, "I find nothing in here that I really have issue with but I really haven't had a chance to get through this." That's quite a sentence. No issues with its content, yet haven't read all of the content. If you say so.

Bratina effectively telling Farr to reconsider asking questions at this time of Dr. Elizabeth Richardson. Please listen fully to Councillor Farr's comments. He wants to know why a report that is listed as one of the items for discussion cannot be discussed.

The answer? Back to the "subtle point" Bratina raised through is point of order. That's right, Mr. Bratina is now embracing rules. too rich by half if you ask me.

Pay close attention to how Councillor Farr deals with Bratina's second attempt to interrupt.

Councillor Farr tries to get back on track and asks a few questions of Dr. Richardson, particularly the impact casino proximity has on rates of problem gambling.

What would a meeting where you rush through a decision on a report that includes information about increased suicide rates from problem gambling that will be exacerbated by the proximity of the casino to already disadvantaged neighbourhoods be without a hilarious closing courtesy of Mr. Bratina, joking about research methodology (rather than asking questions about how to stop people from killing themselves)?

I laughed 'til I cried. And then I cried some more.

As I said at the beginning, draw your own conclusions. For me, this seemed way too rushed. We have our resident expert, the author of the report, sitting in the Chambers ready to answer questions. None are forthcoming, but mostly because of a point of order.

You decide if you think this appears to have been orchestrated. I don't know if it was, but I must say the video at least raises the question.

Let me conclude by saying I sent an very professionally worded and balanced email to Councillor Whitehead, mentioning my observations and my concerns about his hand raising, even mentioning that I was writing this article. As of writing, he had not yet responded.

Hands up, everyone who thinks this is not the way they want to see their city government behave on a matter of extreme importance to public health.

Graham Crawford was raised in Hamilton, moving to Toronto in 1980 where he spent 25 years as the owner of a successful management consulting firm that he sold in 2000. He retired and moved back to Hamilton in 2005 and became involved in heritage and neighbourhood issues. He opened Hamilton HIStory + HERitage on James North in 2007, a multi-media exhibition space (aka a storefront museum) celebrating the lives of the men and women who have helped to shape the City of Hamilton.

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By Bob Street (anonymous) | Posted December 10, 2012 at 09:10:35

In the third video right at 1:50 you can see Farr smirk. That's the moment he realizes he's been procedurally shanghaied. What a shit show this council is turning out to be.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2012 at 13:49:15 in reply to Comment 83671

Incidentally, here's the moment in question:

Farr realization

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted December 10, 2012 at 15:56:08 in reply to Comment 83690

Yeah, that's the look of someone who knows that 70% of his constituents are against a casino downtown, and that hardly anyone else on council gives a crap.

We're not going to able to rely on suburban councillors to do the right thing here. The province has manufactured a crisis and has given municipalities the excuse to site casinos where population densities are highest. Deficiencies in municipal rep-by-pop will simply allow the rest of the city to use downtown as a dumping ground.

As things move inexorably to March's date with destiny, pressure has to be turned on our Provincial reps to insist that we need a referendum on this issue.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2012 at 12:23:37 in reply to Comment 83671

There needs to be way more uproar about this. The fix is in thanks in part to Terry Whitehead who doesn't believe downtown counts as a "neighbourhood"

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By PearlStreet (registered) | Posted December 10, 2012 at 09:49:35

We don't want to be Toronto. We know those who gamble will gamble using the cuurrent methods available anyways. Think with an open mind that city's like Montreal have an entertainment attitude, but incredible arts culture and thrive on this.

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By Le Chiffre (anonymous) | Posted December 10, 2012 at 09:50:46

80 calendar days on the clock.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2012 at 10:05:35

The social impacts of a casino downtown WILL be horrendous.

But even putting those aside for a brief moment (although we shouldn't have to), the financial side is a nightmare as well.

  1. We are 45 minutes from Toronto (an international tourist destination).
  2. We are 45 minutes from Niagara (an international tourist destination).
  3. We are 45 minutes from Brantford.

Are we to believe that anyone from outside the GHA will come to Hamilton as a tourist because we have a casino? Why would they come here instead of Toronto or Niagara?

A Hamilton casino will only attract local gamblers. Why would anyone travel farther than they need to in order to gamble at a different OLG casino? THey will all offer similar if not identical gaming experiences.

So anyone more than 30 minutes outside of Hamilton in any direction will have another choice that is closer to home. A casino is NOT going to improve Hamilton's image and will NOT improve tourism. THis is just dreaming.

We will be feeding the OLG from our own local dollars. For a kickback of under 5%. Of just slots (no tables). What a terrible deal.

On top of this, a casino will kill small businesses and local economy in a radius around it. A casino is designed to keep patrons inside until they are out of money. There will be NO SPINOFF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT in the casino vicinity. This effect alone will more than undo the paltry number of jobs a casino is supposedly "Generating".

The casino kickback of 5 million a year is going to cost us tens of millions per year if we zoom out and analyze the whole picture.

Just a quick comparison: the aerotropolis is going to cost 500 million dollars to build. If we cancel that project, that's 100 years worth of casino kickbacks that we won't need.

Problem solved.

Comment edited by seancb on 2012-12-10 10:06:15

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By Ward 8 Jim (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 11:33:00 in reply to Comment 83677

This is another of those situations where a comment under a story can be as important and impactful as the original post. Well put. Perfect.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2012 at 19:39:41 in reply to Comment 83677

Brantford is more like 30 minutes away - traffic on 403 west is fast.

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By The House Always Wins (anonymous) | Posted December 10, 2012 at 13:26:43

I have a feeling this is bigger and dirtier than it looks at first blush. Kudos to Mr Crawford for noticing what's going on here. The fix is in and the house always wins.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2012 at 14:00:55 in reply to Comment 83687

Last I checked, every single councillor disagrees with the downloading of social costs from the province. They all want these imposed costs sent back to the provincial level. They all think that the costs are far beyond what we can afford as a city.

How can any one of them vote for this project that will absolutely and without a doubt take money from our poor and funnel it to the province? And then it will increase the costs of these services that have already been downloaded?

All of this is a fiscal nightmare wrapped in one package!

Comment edited by seancb on 2012-12-10 14:01:43

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By bobby1 (anonymous) | Posted December 10, 2012 at 13:36:58

Wow,what happened? I visit RTH once a week to see if anything interesting & unfortunately,usually not. Today,I get this report,amazing journalism,story with video put together like an artist! This rivals anything that The Star,National Post,G & M.etc. can do! The story is important,but the reporting structure is more so! With paywalls going up every where,RTH, can become the focal point for real journalism! Pick the stories/issue that interest many,not just the few & you will be able to even get ad income. Graham,I'm not impressed easily,but you impressed me today! Good job!

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By Full Stop (anonymous) | Posted December 10, 2012 at 13:50:35 in reply to Comment 83688

I concur! Job well done! Kudos, Graham Crawford! Kudos, Joey Coleman! Thank you, RTH! Excellent read and great addition to an important issue!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2012 at 13:47:12 in reply to Comment 83688

you will be able to even get ad income

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the content published by RTH. On the matter of advertisements, we are strictly volunteer-based and non-commercial, and do not generate any revenue whatsoever, by ads or any other means.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted December 10, 2012 at 13:56:48

Please follow the link to a report by Ernst & Young on the economic impact of a Toronto Casino Complex:

http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2012/...

-Please note on page 33 of the pdf the size of the area impacted by a Toronto casino. The radius is 125 km from Toronto's downtown, Hamilton is well within this.

-Please note on page 42 of the pdf the size of the proposed Toronto casino and the size of the current Niagara Integrated Complex/Casino. Both are over 22 acres. Hamilton's new casino will be sandwiched between two giant tourist factories.

-Please note on page 44 of the pdf the % of revenue from non-gambling sources at major casinos. This is non-gambling spending that is not being spread in the surrounding community but stays within the casino complex. 25% of revenues from non-gambling sources seems to be a reasonable norm in my eyes. Once again, that revenue is money NOT being spent at local restaurants or entertainment venues. How does this capture of non-gambling revenue help downtown businesses?

-Please note on page 47 of the pdf that the Toronto facility is expected to bring $1.4 Billion in revenue in 2012 dollars

-Please note on page 64 of the pdf the pie chart of gaming revenue distribution. Note that 2% is "unallocated"

-Please note on page 67 of the pdf how low Hamilton's hosting fee is relative to other sites

-Please note on page 70 of the pdf the Provence wide #'s for problem gamblers

-Please note on page 89 of the pdf the Ontario Legislative changes made this year to the casino public consultation process

-Please note on page 62 of the pdf the reducing hosting fee schedule. Operators will reap incredible profits by paying less in hosting fees as slot machine gambling increases.

-Please note on page 39 of the pdf (at the bottom) that a "cannibalism factor" of up to 30% is expected to happen to some casinos within the 125km radius of the Toronto complex. Has this Toronto Megaplex cannibalism factor been included in a Hamilton casino revenue forecasting? I have not seen it accounted for yet.

Studies repeatedly prove that casinos are "Economic Islands" in downtowns of North American cities. Don't buy into the lies that a casino will re-vitalize Hamilton's core. Leave it and improve it in Flamborough where it at least supports the horsing industry.

-

Comment edited by mrjanitor on 2012-12-10 13:59:34

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2012 at 14:43:45 in reply to Comment 83692

Our leaders don't have time for such thick reports.

And based on the form letters being sent out, one might ask whether some lack the language skills necessary to understand them either.

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By SCRAP (anonymous) | Posted December 10, 2012 at 17:36:14

thanks for this article and the work you have done in trying to bring awareness around this issue.

This is what I think, the city is so corrupt and disfunctional, that one can clearly see that even though an agenda was produced for this meeting, it was the hidden agenda, which we do not see that clearly aced the show.

How can any elected offical come to a meeting without actually reading the report? The question I'd ask is why did you run in an election, is it only for the money, perks, etc?

If I was Mr Farr, I would of caused a ruckus, as I am a radical who speaks my mind. I would of told Bratina, you did not elect me, the people in my ward did and if you cannot come to a meeting prepared, maybe you should go back to the pasture, or wherever it is you came from.

Not nice I know but come on now, who there has any balls. I would rather see someone like Sam Lawrence who did stand up to all the bullies back in the day. He cared about the working class, which includes all of us.









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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted December 10, 2012 at 19:00:41

The contrast between the approaches taken and the decisions made by the City of Hamilton Board of Health and the City of Toronto Board of Health on the casino expansion issue is startling.

At the Toronto Board of Health Meeting on November 19, 2012, they received the November 7, 2012 report from the Medical Officer of Health and listened to him give a presentation on The Health Impacts of Gambling Expansion in Toronto. They also listened to six other speakers. This culminated in the Toronto Board of Health making a detailed nine point decision including an endorsement of the report made by their Medical Officer of Health and a recommendation to city council “…that based on health evidence pointing to severe health risks associated with gambling, that the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) not be invited to expand gambling in the City of Toronto.”

Here are the Minutes of the City of Toronto Board of Health meeting on November 19, 2012: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaIt...

At the Hamilton Board of Health meeting on December 3, 2012, they voted to receive Dr. Richardson’s report which had been distributed to them on November 29, 2012 and refer it to the Gaming Facility Proposal Subcommittee for deliberation. No presentations. No discussions except for a few questions from Councillor Farr. No endorsements. No recommendations. It appears that they did not even table Dr. Richardson’s report for further discussion by the Board of Health.

Here are the Minutes of the City of Hamilton Board of Health meeting on December 3, 2012: http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/E61F...

The mandate of the Hamilton Board of Health includes a duty “To consider and recommend to council on policy matters and emerging issues related to public health.” At its meeting on December 3, 2012, the Hamilton Board of Health failed to duly consider Dr. Richardson’s report and it failed to make any recommendations to council. It even failed to table the report for further discussion. Instead, it steered its decision-making authority to a five member Gaming Facility Proposal Subcommittee that has no mandate to make health decisions for the Hamilton community. The Gaming Facility Proposal Subcommittee will probably need to refer it back to the Hamilton Board of Health for consideration.

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2012-12-10 19:01:25

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By Whitney (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 06:25:57

The house may always win, but the House is currently prorogued. I may be wrong, but I believe any provincially mandated referendum would require a sitting Legislature at minimum.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted December 12, 2012 at 23:02:11

There are enough Yes votes on council. THe casino is happening. If you don't like casinos you don't have to go.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 13, 2012 at 12:16:45 in reply to Comment 83803

Great. So they can put it next to your house?

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 14, 2012 at 05:19:55 in reply to Comment 83834

If it's in ward 2 it might be near mine. I can deal with it. Why can't you?

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted December 13, 2012 at 08:17:21

Update:

At the Hamilton city council meeting last night, Minutes of the Dec 3/12 Hamilton Board of Health meeting were received by council without any question as to why the Hamilton Board of Health did not consider or make any decision on the report titled "Health and Social Impacts of Gambling " by its own Medical Officer of Health before voting to send the report to the Gaming Facility Proposal Subcommittee.

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By MxPx (anonymous) | Posted December 15, 2012 at 21:31:55

insult spam deleted

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 27, 2012 at 08:28:33 in reply to Comment 83988

Wow, really? Too bad we can't have dissenting opinions posted on here. Boo.

EDIT: Comment is in regards to the moderators removing a post that asked a question regarding the volume of signs printed to people present and the never-ending sign campaign from a downtown business owner.

Comment edited by DowntownInHamilton on 2012-12-27 08:29:17

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By Emilio (anonymous) | Posted December 26, 2012 at 22:38:37

I don't get what the uproar is about. The mayor was saying that he'll need more time to go through the report. Aren't they going to revisit this before making a final decision on this?

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