We should be betting on the power of Hamiltonians and their indigenous, creative, and productive enterprises that are already revitalizing our city.
By Jeff Strong
Published February 12, 2013
In his book Culture Making, author Andy Crouch shares five diagnostic questions that all leaders should address when evaluating a "cultural artifact":
If we take Crouch's five questions and apply them to the cultural artifact that is a casino, and substitute "Hamilton" for "the world," we gain a new set of questions that enable us to think about the casino issue in a deeper and more meaningful way.
Using these five questions as a filter, I can find more than enough grounds on which to reject the proposal for a downtown casino in Hamilton.
First, I'm not convinced representatives of the pro-casino position have adequately reflected on questions 1 and 2. This concerns me.
Secondly, while representatives of the pro-casino position have addressed question 3, their responses have been shockingly uniform and myopic: more jobs and money for the city of Hamilton. This disappoints me.
Finally, I see no evidence to indicate that representatives of the pro-casino position have even considered questions 4 and 5. This truly terrifies me.
Without addresses each of these five questions thoroughly, the pro-casino position amounts to an all-in, high stakes gamble where the stakes are Hamilton's downtown core and those who live there.
That doesn't sound like a gamble I'm willing to make.
That being said, I recognize that pro-casino advocates could just as easily push back on my position by insisting that it's just as much of a gamble to reject a downtown casino and the immediate infusion of financial investment it would bring to the downtown core.
I see their point. After all, despite what people may say, there is no such thing as a "sure thing." While it's true that some decisions have the odds stacked in their favour, in life one learns very quickly that playing the numbers will only get you so far.
That's the burden that lies at the heart of every major decision: you can do your homework, crunch the numbers, and arrive at a decision point with confidence that you're about to do what's best and right...but you still need to make a decision.
And that decision is always a (risky) step into the unknown. To that extent, all decisions of significance are a gamble of sorts.
So if I concede the point that there are risks inherent to both sides of the debate, one final question remains: who are we betting on?
Are we betting on the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and its (unsubstantiated) promises of "fame and fortune" for our city? Or are we betting on the power of Hamiltonians and their indigenous, creative, and productive enterprises that are already revitalizing our city?
Pro-casino advocates have demeaned and dismissed the so-called #casiNO movement - the loose coalition of Hamiltonians who are opposed to a downtown casino - for being out of touch with the "obvious" benefits of a downtown casino. But in the process, they've tipped their hand as to who they're betting on: a corporate giant that offers hollow hope and surgically precise spin.
Those of us in the #casiNO camp know there's a better gamble to take; one in which the odds are stacked in our favour. Granted, our position isn't one without risk, but it is energized by a passionate conviction that the long-term solution for the challenges facing our city lies in the growing collective of Hamiltonians who believe in Hamiltonians.
We are willing, eager, and excited to "gamble" on the human capital within this great city, and fight for a future that is "by Hamiltonians, for Hamiltonians."
And that's why we're going "all-in," and placing our bets on a future that puts the potential for our city and its downtown core in the hands and hearts of Hamiltonians.
Yes, it's a risk. Yes, it's a gamble. But surely it's a gamble worth taking.
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