Bluffs Advocate
   Toronto Casino

A Game of Chance

Act Now to Stop a Local Mega Casino

The mega casino will paralyse the downtown with more traffic and parking issues, double addiction rates in this city, waste our waterfront land, close local businesses, and increase crime

By Peggy Calvert, Maureen Lynett, and Sheila Lynett

            You have likely heard by now about the proposed mega casino for downtown Toronto. Our love for  this city has driven us to work tirelessly to prevent the city council’s approval of this project. Last spring, three of us, women from Toronto’s suburbs, started this group which now includes among its ranks 10,000 supporters from across the city.
            We are writing to let you know why so many people in Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, and the downtown area oppose a mega casino and to let you know what you can do to stop its construction.
            From our extensive research and the many reports created by Toronto’s own city staff, we have identified five main concerns. The mega casino will paralyse downtown with more traffic and parking issues than it already has, double addiction rates in the city, squander our beautiful waterfront land, close local businesses, and increase crime.
            Your city councillor will be voting on this mega casino in less than a month, but he or she is very likely still undecided or even leaning towards voting to approve it. We need you to take action today to help stop this: www.nocasinotoronto.com/take-action.


More Traffic, More Gridlock
           Parking availability and traffic volume are already at points of crisis downtown. Commuting into Toronto each day is terrible and many of us waste our time stuck in traffic.
           During major events such as sports games and the CNE, it is next to impossible to get downtown by car. The traffic and parking implications of a downtown mega casino would be equivalent to the effects of having a major downtown event happening 365 days a year.
           University of Toronto studies estimate that the casino  would add 4,500 vehicle trips on downtown roads during peak hours. That is tens of thousands more trips on the road each day. Each lane of the Gardiner Expressway carries only 1,500 vehicles per hour.
           We would need at least three more lanes on the Gardiner to accommodate estimated mega casino traffic.
           A mega casino  would require more than 10,000 parking spots to accommodate an estimated 30,000 cars per day, increasing parking prices and creating traffic congestion well beyond the vicinity of the casino. How many cars and buses would be idling interminably, compromising our air quality with their exhaust, and  diminishing our enviable status as a livable city?
            How  would we pay for all of the service upgrades that such a project would demand? The Gardiner Expressway is quite literally falling apart. There is no way to meet  the demands of this project without spending hundreds of millions of our taxpayer dollars on infrastructure that is specific to the needs of the mega casino. This  money  would be much better spent on upgrading our public transit system and the aging infrastructure of the entire city, benefitting all of its population, as opposed to the limited group that intends to visit the casino.


Doubling Gambling Addiction Rates in Toronto
           An extremely pressing problem that the OLG tries to minimize is the negative social impact of an easily accessible casino. The Toronto Medical Office of Health and our renowned Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) agree with Gary Reinblatt, a former OLG director who said, “One of the things we should absolutely avoid is allowing people to walk to the casino. That is just an invitation to increase problem gambling.” But it seems that times have changed and Ontario, desperate for revenue, is willing to put people in harm’s way, despite the advice of this expert.
            Today, we have 110,000 problem gamblers in our city and 10,000 people with severe gambling addiction. Our Medical Office of Health estimates that the proposed mega casino in Toronto would double these numbers leaving us with 220,000 problem gamblers and 20,000 severe gambling addicts.
           CAMH estimates that 30 to 40 per cent of the revenue from casinos comes from those facing gambling addiction. The mega casino would depend on these people for its revenue.
           With a mega-casino complex in downtown Toronto, there would be an increase in problem gamblers, bankruptcies and family breakdowns. It is unethical to  run our city on the backs of addicts and their broken families.


A Terrible Use of our Waterfront
           We have prime waterfront land in Toronto, from Guildwood to the Portlands to Ontario Place and the Humber. We should not squander it on windowless casinos that only a limited number  of us can enter. We should be building public parks and family-oriented places along our waterfront.
           In fact, many of the mega casino proposals are for the Exhibition Grounds. The Chair of the CNE predicts this would mean the end of our annual National Exhibition, as well as the end of the Royal Winter Fair. The mega casino not only builds a closed-off facility but it takes away many of our family-friendly events.


Cannibalization of Local Businesses
           A mega casino comes with subsidized (i.e. cheap or below cost) bars, restaurants, alcohol, food and theatre. These all help to lure and keep people within the casino, where they gamble.. This is howthe casino makes its profits.
           The mega casino’s main customers are local residents who shift their spending from neighbourhood restaurants, bars, cafes and theatres, to all of the subsidized amenities that the complex provides, sounding the death knell for the businesses that exist outside and around the complex.
           This has proven to be the case in Detroit, Atlantic City, Windsor and St. Louis where neighbourhoods around casinos declined. Ken Greenberg, an eminent Toronto architect and urban designer, in is the process of creating a “rescue plan” for Atlantic City and St. Louis, cities that based their economic strategy on a casino development.


Crime
           Studies including those done by the federal government’s Statistics Canada, show that casinos lead to increased crime. They are tied to organized crime, money laundering, loan sharks, and even increases in alcohol-related offences such as driving under the influence. These developments affect our neighbourhoods and increase policing costs.


We can do better
           Historically speaking, economically troubled cities have touted casino complexes as the answer to their economic woes, as they have desperately attempted to spur economic growth. Toronto is dynamic, diverse, and equitable, city—not a desperate one. It has a thriving arts and entertainment industry. Toronto does not want to be rebranded as a casino destination—a city that profits from addiction-related revenues.


Act Now to Stop the Mega Casino
           Your city councillor will be voting on this issue in only a few weeks. To date, all Scarborough councillors have publicly said they are undecided or leaning to vote ‘yes’ to approve the mega casino.
Visit www.nocasinotoronto.com/take-action to sign the petition. The website will indicate who your city councillor is and will send an email immediately and directly to his or her office. Follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/nocasinotoronto.

Sign the petition at
www.nocasinotoronto.com/take-action

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