A proposed Ottawa casino in Ontario, Canada is facing opposition from a host of usual suspects and one not-so-usual suspect: local health agencies. They claim gambling just ain’t all that good for the public health and isn’t needed.
Those revelations came to light at a press conference earlier this week where Jeff Morrison, Centertown Community Health Center president, broke the news. That news probably can’t be good for the health of those eagerly anticipating or backing a new casino in the city.
“From a problem-gambling perspective, from a mental health and addictions perspective, and from the perspective of the impact on the community, this is not in the interest of the city,” said Morrison, who is also the director of government relations and public affairs for the Canadian Pharmacists Association.
Despite local health agencies’ revolt at the possibility of a casino in the Ottawa area, the region does already boast slot machines, which are housed at the Rideau Carlton Raceway (yep, they also have a racetrack). So it’s not as if the city (which just happens to be the capital of Canada for those not in the know) is a gambling-free zone.
One of the main points the health agencies are trying to stress is that the city council needs to do more consulting on the issue, which they claim was lacking when the council approved the initial concept of a casino in the city.
“We read information from OLG and from the Center for Addiction and Mental Health and now we are saying, as a city, let’s talk about the social consequences of having a new casino in Ottawa,” said Jack McCarthy, Somerset West Community Health Center executive director, one of the agencies opposed to a new casino.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson disagrees however, and states the public had ample opportunity to raise any concerns regarding a casino, and will continue to do so before any final decision is made.
Worst case scenario, the health agencies are hoping that should a casino come to the city against their wishes, that at the very least it will incorporate safety guidelines they feel are necessary to protect Ottawa citizens from the threat of problem gambling. Those guidelines would include the casino not being open 24 hours per day, and not having any ATM machines on site.
The executive director for social responsibility at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation was quick to point out in response that problem gambling affects a very small percentage of the population (between 1.2 % and 3.4% of adults in Ontario), and should not be given more weight than is fair concerning any decisions affecting the entire populace, which is largely comprised of responsible gamblers.