What effect will a casino have on private development, residential property values and existing businesses? What will it do to future business prospects?
By Sean Burak
Published December 13, 2012
I want to commend Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr for attending yesterday's casino subcommittee meeting and asking some important questions. I hope Councillor Farr will continue to be deeply involved in the process despite not being an official subcommittee member, as his presence was much appreciated and his passion for the downtown showed through.
We need to ensure that staff investigates the real economic impact of casinos in downtown areas beyond the direct casino jobs and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp (OLG) kickbacks.
What effect will a casino have on private development? What effect will it have on residential property values and vacancies? What effect will it have on existing businesses? What will it do to future business prospects?
I think we'll find that casinos will reduce residential development and reduce new business growth, and may actually cause a decline in current business successes in the fallout zone surrounding it. The tax impacts of these effects will be devastating.
All of these costs need to be weighed. Otherwise, we will find ourselves stuck with a decades-long terrible deal that sucks money from the community.
We have already been told that the casino will end up catering mostly to local gamblers. What this means is that Hamilton money is going to be funneled up to the province via the OLG. We are only going to receive a minuscule trickle of that back - less than five percent of the total.
Can we afford to give 95 percent of our citizens' gambled money to the province? I don't think so. Each dollar funneled up is a dollar not spent within the community.
We already suffer under provincial downloading of social services. We can't afford it now. Will we be able to afford it when these service needs become even greater?
If our downtown tax base shrinks in the shadow of a casino, will we be able to afford any of it?
All of this matters. The $4.5 million a year in slots kickbacks will not make up for these losses.
Council needs to make sure that city staff understand all of these aspects before they report back to the subcommittee. We need the whole story.
I fear that the impression taken away from yesterday's meeting is that the social side is a "con" and the economic side is a "pro". If we don't question the full economic story, we will suffer for acting on a lack of information.
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