By Brendan Howe
The future of gambling in London rests in the hands of voting residents of the city.
City council decided people will have an opportunity to vote 'yes' or 'no' in a referendum on charity casinos coming to London on municipal election day, Nov. 10.
The question will be: "Are you in favour of the establishment of permanent charity casinos in the City of London?"
Of the 19 city councillors, 16 voted Monday in favour of the referendum, two against and one person was absent for the vote. Grant Hopcroft, deputy mayor and controller, voted against the referendum saying the citizens of London will not be properly informed to make the decision. "We're asking people to give a 'yes' or 'no' vote without seeing the whole picture," he said.
Mayor Dianne Haskett voted against casinos coming to the city Sept. 29 but 'yes' for the referendum. She said she has been consistently against the move to bring permanent casinos to London but is not sure her views represent those of the majority.
"On an issue as big as this we should let the people speak. For a nominal cost [to council] they get their input on the matter," she said. An independent referendum would cost the city approximately $400,000, Haskett added.
She said because of the magnitude of the issue, this year's election could have the biggest voter turnout council has ever seen.
Ward Six Councillor Ben Veel said he voted against the referendum because city council is elected to make decisions and cannot keep going to the public every time they face a tough issue. He also said he does not believe in the referendum because the question is too vague.
"I don't think it will accomplish anything. If you're going to put everything on a ballot why have us?" Veel said.
Council voted 13-5 in favour of bringing casinos to London but Veel was one of the five against because he believes government should not be in the business of gambling and also because it causes social problems, he said. He added "casino," without the emphasis on the "o" in Italian, means a great big mess.
Hopcroft said even though he voted against the referendum, based on the current information about casinos he believes it would be in the best interests of the city to have them.
Ward Two Councillor Bob Beccarea said he voted for the referendum because people told council they wanted a say in the issue. He said the results of the referendum are not legally binding but they may as well be because council will listen to what the public decides.