About casinos and city visions


(I really don’t want to become one of those chronic letter-writers, but it seems this week there is just a lot to be said about decisions being made. Tonight is the city council hearing on the expansion of Edgewater and I am sure it will be packed. Unfortunately, I can’t make it so I am sending this letter instead. If you are a Vancouver resident, consider sending one in today. For more information check out Vancouver Not Vegas)

Dear Vancouver Mayor and City Council:

As someone who lives in the city of Vancouver, and works downtown – I am writing to oppose the expansion of gaming in Vancouver and the building of the new expanded Edgewater mega-casino. I do not believe that increased gambling is a good thing for our city, nor do I believe that enough public consultation has been done on the issue to warrant approval of this mega-project.

Not only would the proposed Edgewater development forever change the character of our downtown area, it also represents a tripling of gaming in our municipality in the form that is most problematic for those with gambling addictions – slot machines. I do not believe that the city has given proper study to the impacts these changes will bring, nor weighed out potential revenue against the increase in social services and policing needed as a result of increased gambling in our community.

While not everyone who enjoys gaming develops an addiction, study after study shows that greater access to casinos, slot machines and other forms of wagering increases the rate of problem-gambling (ie: addiction) greatly in the surrounding community. According to US studies, two out of three compulsive gamblers commit illegal acts in order to pay gambling-related debts or to continue gambling. A Nova Scotia study estimates that each problem gambler negatively affects 10 to 17 other people. And it should come as no surprise that problem gamblers are more likely to abuse their wives and children, suffer from depression, attempt suicide and file for bankruptcy than the general population.

But this isn’t just about problem gamblers is it? It’s also a question of what kind of city we want. One that attracts organized crime? One that promotes addiction as a way to make a quick dollar? One that turns prime waterfront into glass and chrome towers rather than working towards emphasizing the city’s natural beauty? A green city or a greedy city? I’m pretty sure that you have the same answer at heart as I do, and yet it’s hard to turn away from the cash on offer upfront.

This is the time to be strong, and show the residents of the city that you care about what happens to them – and that you have a healthy and positive vision of Vancouver’s future rather than the seedy one that Edgewater would rather us celebrate.

I urge you to call a moratorium on all gaming expansion until citizens have been properly consulted via a referendum or equivalent process, as is done in other cities and jurisdictions across North America.

Furthermore I urge you to sever the application for gaming expansion from the Edgewater rezoning application, so that we may have a public discussion about gambling expansion.

I don’t believe a mega-casino is what this city needs or wants – so please give  Vancouverites a chance to fully participate in this discussion with you.

Vancouver is a great city. Let’s keep it that way.

Sincerely,
MA

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