By Colin Dunne and Sara Marett
High rollers and slot jockeys will no longer have to make the trip to Windsor if London's city council approves a proposal for two charity casinos. The city's planning committee voted in favour of one downtown location for the possible site of both casinos last night.
The Consumer and Commercial Relations Ministry approved Friday the opening of the two casinos which are projected to generate $180 million net annually for various charities two per cent of which is earmarked for problem-gambling programs. In addition, the province will receive $200 million, said Ab Campion, director of communications for the Ministry.
The London sites are two of 44 newly implemented provincial casinos which, while approved by the province, must still receive city council approval next Monday before being allowed to operate within city boundaries. Councillor Gary Williams, a Western Fair board member, approves of the casinos and said it would be reasonable to bring them in.
Mayor Diane Haskett however, disapproves of the casinos and voted against the motion at the committee meeting last night. "I feel gambling causes many social problems that the people of London do not need," she said, adding casinos will hurt the city as a whole. "I look at them as being the last option as far as tourism efforts are concerned. It is not my idea of a creative tourism idea it's a last resort I don't want to see us turning to."
The proposed casinos will be confined to a 10,000 square-foot area and will mainly feature video lottery machines. Haskett said this type of gambling, in her opinion, is highly addictive and provides unnecessary problems for the city.
As far as casinos adding to social problems such as gambling, the same argument could be made for outlawing alcohol, Williams said. "Casinos may make a problem worse for individuals with gambling troubles, but that is no different than those with drinking problems."
Regarding the approved downtown location, Williams said it will give the area a boost, but he is not sure it is a good business decision to have both casinos located in the downtown core.
He would have rather seen one casino downtown and one at the Western Fair the other proposed location at last night's meeting. The fair, which attracts one million visitors a year, offers other attractions and the parking to accommodate a casino, Williams said.
Possible added costs of policing the casino is also an issue needing research by looking at how other municipalities have handled it, Williams said.