Volume 91, Issue 40

Friday, November 7, 1997

musical chairs


Gambling on a vote

By Mark Brown
Gazette Staff

To gamble or not to gamble – that is the question Londoners will be asked on the municipal election ballot Monday, but several groups are concerned people won't really know what they are voting for.

The ad hoc group of Charities and Businesses For Gaming Clubs is currently trying to make an 11th hour bid in an attempt to get accurate information out to the community before the vote, said spokesperson for the group Kevin Dunklee.

"A lot of people seem to believe they will be voting on the transplantation of an Atlantic City into London," Dunklee said. The casinos will be a moderate size and the community will have a great deal of input, he added.

One of the main goals of the pro-casino group is to inform the community of how a 'no' vote will affect local charities, he said, noting charities are a means of supporting the community.

"It comes down to the choice of the individual – adults should be allowed to make their own decisions," he said. Two per cent of the money from video lottery terminals will be put towards counselling, but if London votes 'no,' the city will not receive this money and will have to pay the full cost if casinos are established in neighbouring communities.

Geoffery Hale, member of the steering committee of Citizens for a Casino-Free London, opposed Dunklee's argument. "Casinos will be bad for the community, the economy and [London's] charities," he said. "It will impose social costs without the resources."

Hale said he disagrees with Dunklee's concerns about casinos popping up just outside the city of London, arguing many of the surrounding areas appear to be against casinos. "Do we think our neighbours are so selfish that we should do this to ourselves first?" he said.

About 70 per cent of the profits would go to the provincial government with 10 per cent going to the charity casinos. This would translate into a $50 million tax increase on the city per year, Hale said. "The city is ripping off charities to pad the provincial treasury."

Mayoral candidate Grant Hopcroft, said he believes some sort of mini-casino in London is inevitable but he is concerned about the impact casinos will have on local charities since it has not been decided how the casinos will operate.

Diane Haskett's campaign manager Mike Mitchell said Haskett absolutely does not favour casinos in London.

Political Science professor Sid Noel said although Monday's referendum is not binding, it will offer the city guidance.

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Copyright The Gazette 1997