CasiYES Tops CasiNO

January 23, 2013

“I think this is a slam dunk,” says John Wright, senior vice president of Ipsos Reid in a National Post article yesterday.

This?

A casino in Toronto.

“Unless something incredible happens,” Mr. Wright continues, “the debate for the most part is over.”

In other words, according to the Ipsos Reid poll, for 906 people (presumably residents of Toronto) this has happened:

A Toronto casino will create jobs. How many? Thousands and thousands. Maybe even 10,000. Maybe. What kind of jobs? Full and part time. Maybe even union jobs. How much money in revenue will Toronto get for hosting a casino? Millions and millions. Maybe even $400 million a year according to no robust examination whatsoever. Why not $500 million if we simply float a boat in the lake, claims one pro-casino councillor who shall remain nameless although who else could it be? Where will this casino be? Ummm… What’s your answer first? We got preferences but let’s not decide on such an important factor until we know if a casinos coming or not.

I know this is going to come across as just another anti-casino screed. Truth be told, I am neither here nor there on the concept of casinos. They rarely serve as a destination of choice for me. gamblingThat doesn’t mean I don’t think others should have the opportunity to do so if they wish.

The deleterious effects of gambling as a reason for not building a casino in town leaves me equally cold. It is moralistic in tone and opens up the argument that the government should not be in the business of or profit from any activity that is harmful to a segment of society. Prohibition anyone? How’s that war of drugs been working out for us?

As our friend over on Twitter, @lifeonqueen, said, “…it symbolizes the immorality of using casinos as a tax substitute.” Now we’re getting to the meat of the argument. Governments preying on our more self-indulgent (and worse) natures instead of engaging fully with us about the necessity of proper taxation. Delivering the appearance of getting something for nothing.

And, according to the results of this online poll, a solid majority have bought into it.gambling1

From what I can tell, the city is being pressured into a yes-or-not vote with the details to be worked out later. We all know the devil is in the details, yet we’re essentially willing to sign off on a blank document. Who does that except for the extremely desperate? Why are we so desperate?

My two biggest concerns about this situation are money and location.

How much money, directly and indirectly, will end up in the city’s coffers when this is said and done? So far, the numbers have been vague. Vague, vague, vague. At this point, we’re can’t even be sure if it’ll end up costing the city more to have a casino than what we take in. gambling2That’s, what would you call it? A gamble.

Location is almost as important in this equation. To not have the ultimate say in where a casino would be is really not being an equal partner in the decision. Putting an inward looking edifice which a casino is along the waterfront, bringing cars downtown to fill its 10,000 parking spaces is an absolute deal breaker for me. I can’t see where’d there be any amount of money offered up in return for that.

Now, I would seriously consider a casino up at Woodbine. Remember Woodbine Live? Proof during the 2010 mayoral campaign that Rob Ford knew how to work with the private sector. It was supposed to look like this. In fact, it looks like this.

It’s a prime placement for some serious economic development especially for an automobile-oriented enterprise like this casino’s supposed to be. The decision seems a no-brainer to me if we’re going the casino route, if, when all the facts and figures are in, it makes fiscal sense for the city.gambling3

But we’re so far away from that kind of detailed discussion right now. Yes or No should be just a starting point with more than a few opt out escape hatches built in. No, but… Yes, if… That’s the level of discussion we need to have before getting down to the nitty gritty.

Right now, we’re just being asked to cross our fingers and trust a group of people who in no way has earned that trust that everything’s going to work out just fine for everyone concerned. Win-win-win.

You wouldn’t buy a water heater for you house under those stipulations. Why on earth would we consent to building a casino that way?

odds on-ly submitted by Cityslikr


Niagara Falls Ontario Wonderful Place For You To Go

March 23, 2010

Unexpectedly finding ourselves in the middle of a casino in Niagara Falls one night last week (tell me that hasn’t happened to you), we pondered on the notion of government sanctioned gambling. What had once been a highly controversial topic less than 20 years ago was now simply a given. A not-quite-Vegas-more-like-Reno-or-maybe-Atlantic-City given where cheese and bad food rules although the drinks are made in Ontario expensive.

We are not gamblers. Or, after our Niagara Falls experience, I should say, two of us aren’t gamblers. (Acaphelgmic went missing and has still not turned up days later.) It’s not owing to any moralistic bent. To our mind, we just don’t see the point of it. Money does burn a hole in our pockets but we can think of much more interesting ways to piss it away.

Like with so many other things though, we are face first into the prevailing winds of our time. Large swaths of the public, who otherwise rail against handing over their hard earned cash to the government in the form of taxes, happily do just that at a slot machine or card table. It’s a matter of personal choice, I guess, although for some that is highly debatable. Gambling, once the scourge of decent society, is now an acceptable pastime, wealth distributor and government income generator.

Last fiscal year, the Ontario Gaming and Lottery Corp. pumped nearly $4 billion into the Ontario economy, half of it directly into provincial coffers. It is a major employer and corporate sponsor of charities and cultural events. The 10 casinos it owns and/or operates have brought a pulse back into the ailing municipalities that have embraced them. This is a service sector largely resistant to economic cycles.

“If gambling, why not drug decriminalization?” my non-gambling colleague asks over sparkly cocktails at a glittery bar. “Or prostitution. Let’s accept the fact that there are distasteful habits that we just can’t legislate or regulate out of practice, and get in on the action.” Own it to rule it.

Maybe mayoral candidate Giorgio Mammoliti isn’t so out there after all. OK. He is but as governments on all levels grapple with mounting fiscal imbalances why are we ignoring potentially huge revenue streams that are swirling around us, untouched in the underground economy? Not so long ago, we as a society didn’t abide gambling. We seem to have overcome our qualms about that. Why not legalized (and taxed) prostitution or drug use?

I would probably be an even stronger advocate of such ideas if I truly thought moneys made from such non-traditional enterprises were properly plowed back into the public sphere. A meander off the beaten track of the city of Niagara Falls doesn’t fill me with hope however. My childhood memory of the place is that of a somewhat tacky, down-at-heel vacation destination. Posed on the veritable precipice of a truly astounding natural wonder, the town was as equally awash in chintzy souvenir shops, carnival attractions and all the other markings of low rent consumerism.

Despite the boost to the local economy that the government run casinos claim to have provided, Niagara Falls still feels somewhat shabby. Dilapidated houses sit in the shadows of high rise hotels on somewhat derelict feeling streets just off the main drags. Actual residential areas are few and far between. Try finding a bank when you’re in need of some cash (no, I don’t have a problem) and are absolutely unwilling to hand over exorbitant fees to ATMs that you’re pretty sure are directly linked into the casinos.

It simply feels that little of the cash being thrown around town makes its way back into the lives of the people who live here. But hey, without the casino, do you think Gladys Knight and the Pips would give so much as a second thought to Niagara Falls as a tour stop? Where else would octogenarian funnyman Don Rickles ply his trade without our wealth of casinos?

And where else could our provincial government turn in order to divest its citizens of billions of dollars aside from the casinos and other gambling venues? It is the new reality, this uneasy truce between citizens and their elected representatives. The casino quid pro quo. I’ll give you my money although I want a little something in return. No, not services. But a chance to strike it rich under the flashing lights and faux grandeur of palaces dedicated to what we once considered nothing more than filthy vice.

sanctimoniously submitted by Urban Sophisticat