Volume 94, Issue 90

Tuesday, March 13, 2001


Know when to hold and know when to fold - When fun turns to addiction

The brighter side of gambling

A historical habit

The brighter side of gambling

By Lindsay Satterthwaite
Gazette Staff

Gambling is a terrible, addictive habit for a small percentage of the population, but how does it affect the other 97 per cent?

Those in the casino business argue that when responsible people are involved in the gaming industry, it can prove beneficial to others.

"Casinos have wonderful benefits to the areas they are built in," said Jim Cronin, director of communication for the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. They contribute to tourism in the area and a portion of the revenue goes to a variety of places, including the community itself. Ontario charities, such as the Trillium Foundation, also reap the rewards of the gaming industry.

The gaming industry is all around us and is expanding at a phenomenal rate. Cronin explained the OLGC manages all gaming style casinos. In Ontario, there are three commercial casinos, five charitable casinos, and 12 slot operations at race tracks. There is also a new casino being built in Niagara, with no decision yet to close the current location There is also another charity casino in Eastern Ontario, and plans for three more slot casinos, Cronin said.

He added casinos are built based on the market demand of who is interested in gaming entertainment. "For example, Windsor and Niagara casinos are built on borders and Casino Rama attracts the greater Toronto area," he said.

In addition, a referendum is held in the potential area and a clear consensus must be made by the community before a casino can be built, Cronin said.

Sherry Lawson, director of corporate affairs and public relations for Casino Rama, said the casino has had an extremely positive influence on the Orillia area. "We have 3,000 employees, including over 600 native employees," she said.

Lawson explained close to $400 million has also been given to 500 charities and groups over five years. "We are well known for being good community citizens, which is unusual for a business," she said.

A casino is run like any other business, with a budget for things such as marketing, employees, and improvements, Lawson said. "If the public wants something new in our business, we are able to provide it for them."

Plans for a massive addition to the casino are underway which will employ hundreds of individuals, many of them coming from the small town where the casino is located, Lawson said. "There is a job for everyone here," she said.

Casino Rama has been very popular with an average of 13,000 visitors with the number increasing to 23,000 during the summer months. Close to 80 per cent of the visitors come from the greater Toronto area which explains why the casino offers such an extensive bus system. "We have 80 full size buses coming into the casino each day, with some of them as little as $5 per guest," Lawson said.

With over 1,000 slots and 100 gaming tables, it is not difficult to see how large pay-outs are common on the floor. "There was once a $100,000 pay-out for one hand of poker, but more common pay-outs are $10,000 and $20,000," Lawson noted.

An issue any casino has to deal with is problem gambling. G. Ron Frisch, director of the Problem Gambling Research Group at the University of Windsor, said since the opening of the casino, the city has seen an increase in gambling problems, but this may simply be because the casino resulted in more people gambling.

Cronin explained most casinos have programs available for people who struggle with gambling addictions. "There is currently a $17 million program funded by casinos that help people with problems. There are posters and signs all over the casinos and a 24-hour help line is available," he said.

Lawson explained Casino Rama does special training with staff regarding problem gambling and they are a major supporter of the Canadian Federation of Compulsive Gambling. It is important to bear in mind however, that everyone on the property is an adult. "People have the responsibility to recognize their own problems," she said.

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