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Casino Free Castlegar

363469200_23d22b09b5_mWe’ll it looks like Castlegar is in line to get a Cashino, (must have been a Freudian slip!). Cash seems to be the view that council has about the proposal, at least that’s what I get from reading the local newspaper, (sorry, no online edition here!), but I’ve quoted the best bits.

For a city surrounded by natural beauty, rivers, lakes, fishing, biking, hiking, golf, skiing, snowmobiling, it’s hard to imagine why we’d need another reason for people to come here, particularly one that is at odds with nature. It’s not natural to sit indoors in a sensory overloaded room staring at a slot machine for hours on end. On the contrary, it is intentionally addictive, they want you to stay there to blow even more of your money.

Also, check out the end of the article for the real reason Castlegar was selected, tell me it’s not true! I challenge you! Then vote for yourself on the real reason in the poll!

BC’s Newest Casino?

Now, when I say, “in line” to get a casino, apparently there is a selection process by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation. Hang on, a competition to work out which city is going to get the right to host a casino. A bit much don’t you think. Perhaps they should have started with community input, rather than ending with it? Here’s a snippet of the news…

“The selection of the City of Castlegar is the first milestone in BCLC’s process for choosing the most appropriate location for a community gaming centre,” said Marsha Walden, BCLC’s Vice President of Bingo Gaming. “The City must now review a development proposal from BCLC’s service provider and obtain community input.”

Source: Lottery.com – News – Article Display

What’s a gaming centre? I’ll spell it out C-A-S-I-N-O. No euphemisms please, just the facts please Ma’am. Games are things you play at home with your kids like scrabble and snakes and ladders, or things you play outside like soccer or baseball. Why don’t they call it a Gambling Centre, that would be more accurate really.

Can’t wait for the public forum on this one, I thought the water meter sessions were fun, maybe it will even go to a referendum?

What the Mayor Said About the Proposed Castlegar Casino…

Mayor Chernoff did say that the city would put some money towards gambling addiction problems if they arise. “We’ll put some money towards that… We’ll look after the public, we’re not here to hurt or harm families. We’re here to provide another source of entertainment to the West Kootenay.”

Council hasn’t decided how it will spend it’s 10% take of slot machine revenue. “It’s a nice chunk of money that will surely help the city in things that we want to do … it won’t go to a specific thing … we’ll try to create some more opportunities. Who are we helping in the long term? The taxpayers and that’s what we are trying to do.”

Castlegar Current, Thursday, July 19, 2007 p3

Spoken like a true salesman! Just because some one wants to “give you money” so to speak, doesn’t mean you have to take it! How about waiting to see what the public say before you work out where your ten percent is going? I mean maybe he has done his own research, and figures that the majority of the city want a casino, but most everyone I’ve spoken to about it thinks the idea is bad.

What really disappoints me, is that rather than shooting from the hip, the city should have prepared a press release regarding this matter, with a carefully worded response to the news. Casinos may offer holiday destinations, entertainment and a level of employment, but they can also destroy lives.

I couldn’t decide between the Casino Simpsons scene or the monorail one to represent the problem … So you get both. Enjoy, (then keep reading!) More after the jump…

Someone suggested to me the other day that I start compiling all of the evidence that casinos are not all they stack up to be. The glossy brochures that I’m sure the city officials receive would suggest that the economic benefits far outweigh any problems that the city may face. What is the city planning to do when we get even more drink driving cases from a new casino? We’ve already experienced a six-fold increase in drink driving charges from 2005 to 2007…

Staff Sergeant David Fayle informed the Castlegar City Council members on Monday night that there have been alarming increases in liquor related offences this last year, and the West Kootenay is an anomaly when it comes to impaired driving cases.

In the first six months of 2005, RCMP saw a total of 14 impaired driving charges, and in the first five months of 2007, Fayle says there has been 87 charges laid.

Source: Castlegar News

Even the Wall Street Journal Published an article condemning the practice of state-run gambling in the US, a copy of it is available here.

I’m not an expert on gambling, or problem gambling, but there are many people dealing with this problem everyday, and for sure there are already people in our community that have a problem. Lets do a bit of a browse on the web…

If we go with the BC statistic of 0.4% of adults having a severe gambling problem, we’re looking at around 20 people in Castlegar alone, (not counting surrounding regions that are within driving distance). If we go with the statistics from Illinois, at 3% of the adult population, that’s 120 people. And how many more with a moderate problem?

My question to the mayor and council. Are you willing to “bet the farm” on over a hundred relationships, marriages, homes, and even lives?

Some Statistics

Here’s some links and quotes to have a think about on the issue… (emphasis mine in all cases)

The BC Lottery Corporation…

According to independent research conducted recently in BC, 0.4% of adults have a severe gambling problem while another 4.2% have a moderate problem.

Source: http://www.bclc.com/cm/playresponsibly/ourprograms.htm

A CBC report.

People who make $20,000 or less spend an average of $211, or 2.6% of their income, on gambling activities.
People who make more than $80,000 average $497, 0.6% of their total income.
Source: Statistics Canada

Source: CBC News Indepth: Gambling

From the Plan Philly Website

Goodman argued that while casino destinations like Las Vegas draw tourist dollars from other states, Philadelphia?s casinos are likely to suck money mostly from the local economy, drawing dollars away from local eateries, bars and other venues. Atlantic City, Goodman claimed, lost 40 percent of its restaurants and a third of its businesses in the years after casino introduction.

Source: Casino sound and fury floods City Hall | Plan Philly: Planning Philadelphia’s Future

From an Illinois Addiction Recovery Organization…

Current estimates suggest that three percent of the adult population will experience a serious problem with gambling that will result in significant debt, family disruption, job losses, criminal activity or suicide.

Pathological gambling affects the gamblers, their families, their employers and the community. As the gamblers go through the phases of their addiction, they spend less time with their family and spend more of their family’s money on gambling until their bank accounts are depleted. Then they may steal money from family members.

At work, the pathological gambler misuses time in order to gamble, has difficulty concentrating and finishing projects and may engage in embezzlement, employee theft or other illegal activities. IIAR works with employers to offer a comprehensive program of evaluation, treatment, counseling and support for employees and their families.

Source: About Pathological Gambling

From The Canadian Safety Council – Gambling and Suicide…

No one knows exactly how many compulsive gamblers end up taking their own lives in Canada. The Canada Safety Council believes the number is over 200 a year. For every suicide, five gamblers with self-inflicted injuries could end up in hospital. Gambling addiction is also linked to a range of other serious personal and social harms such as bankruptcy, family breakup, domestic abuse, assault, fraud, theft and even homelessness.

The profits from government gaming operations are almost $13 billion nationally, but the costs of gambling addiction are not known. Some of these could be quantified, including medical care, policing, courts, prisons, social assistance and business losses. However, no simple dollar figure can measure the devastation to the lives of those affected by pathological gambling….

The Canada Safety Council believes strategies are urgently needed to reduce deaths, injuries and other harms resulting from the expansion of gambling. As with other safety issues, there will be no magic bullet. Solutions will involve a combination of measures, including public education, preventive use of technology, counseling and treatment programs, well-enforced regulations ? and above all, a strong social commitment to prevent gambling addiction.

Source: Gambling Addiction and Suicide

From Wikipedia – Problem Gambling…

According to a variety of sources, the prevalence (i.e., extent of existing cases) of problem gambling is 2-3% and pathological gambling is 1% in the United States. For comparison, about 7% of Americans have an alcohol problem . Gamblers Anonymous has estimated that about one in twenty gamblers eventually becomes a problem or pathological (compulsive) gambler

Source: Problem gambling – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Next Steps

The power is in the hands of the people. The facts should be fairly presented to council, and by council to the public. This is a major decision for the community and council, it’s not just a bit of extra cash; we are talking about changing the dynamics of the community in so many ways, and once invoked, there is no going back. We’ve got more to offer the world than a casino, there’s plenty of those out there already. Do we really want to be giving more of our hard earned cash to the government and wealthy casino operators?

Casino operators talk of it as entertainment, but they wouldn’t be doing it if they didn’t think they could make some serious money off it. Do we really want to play into their hands?

Let’s see what the community comes up with, sign whatever petitions are required, let council know that it’s not OK to play roulette with our community. I’m sure there will be a public forum on this one announced soon, let’s hope it goes a bit better than the Simpsons Monorail Meeting.

The Real Reason…

After many hours of pondering the matter, I finally worked out why Castlegar has been selected for consideration as a site for BC’s newest casino. Are you ready for it….

It’s because in winter, the airport service is so unreliable (hence it’s nickname Cancel-gar), people visiting will be forced to stay another night or two, or three! Of course the casino wouldn’t find that appealing, now would they?

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

24 thoughts on “Casino Free Castlegar

  1. Pingback: The Future of Golf
  2. If you’re not an expert on gambling, how can you use the issue as the only basis for your entire negative article? (Not to be harsh, but your career in journalism seems ill-fated to begin with considering your misuse of the English language. Don’t you think you should try harder when it comes to the issue of content?)

    My heart goes out to the twenty (only twenty..?) Castlegarites who might—potentially—statistically!—have a gambling problem, but as someone who earns under 20K herself…I can’t wait for it to open. I’m more concerned about the potential for EMPLOYING our locals. In case you haven’t noticed, unemployment is the issue facing Castlegar these days. Most of us don’t have gambling problems, but we don’t have jobs, either. My husband is chomping at the bit to apply there.

    I’m smart enough to know that the answer to my money situation isn’t to flush what little I have down the toilet…why should this project be hindered to accomodate twenty people? (I’d also like to point out that there are already a number of good programs related to Addiction Services in our area.)

    Anonymous: You’re highly underqualified to speak for ‘85% of the Kootenays’. Please don’t.

    1. I agree that employment is a huge issue in Castlegar, as it is likely to become across the province in the coming years.

      I also agree that there are benefits to this type of business starting up, increased taxes for the City; hopefully a number of construction jobs and full-time jobs as well as part time jobs for workers.

      Thank you for this perspective, there isn’t enough talk about the “real” issues facing Castlegar and the Kootenays, I think you and I would agree on that, we just have a different perspective on legalized gambling facilities. And no, I’m not an expert on Gambling, but I am experienced in Urban Planning and Land Use and have read much on the issues that can arise in communities that promote gambling as an “industry”.

      Not sure what your comment on the English Language is about, I did change software on the website and had many problems with the first line of comments repeating themselves. Note that this post was written five months ago, today I have fixed all of those in this post, it is a little difficult when you are dealing with hundreds of comments spanning hundreds of posts. If it is something else, please let me know and I’ll remedy the situation. Thanks again for your perspective.

  3. I had no idea that, in addition to engineering, you also were an expert on Planning and Land Use! A Masters degree in planning on top of an engineering degree, that is quite an achievement. Which planning school did you come out of?

  4. Seven years experience in land development and urban design has taught me a thing or two about land use. I agree that this is not equivalent to a masters, that certainly wasn’t my intention. However, this experience does give me the right to discuss the appropriate context for various proposals from a position of knowledge rather than, as you seem to assume, speculation.

    I’m so glad I can have this discussion with someone at somewhere dot com. Next time use your real email address, anonymity is not guaranteed by leaving a fake email. In case you were wondering, rude or offensive comments will be deleted.

    btw – Is it Kira or Alex?

  5. nothing offensive was intended….I was simply curious about what your planning education and experience leading land use projects was. I figured it must be extensive for you to consider yourself an ‘expert’! 🙂

  6. Sure,

    – Seems to me that the location will help mitigate social issues, as it is a ‘destination’, rather than a stroll down the street in an area with the most vulnerable.
    – You’d think the best location would be near the hotels, but it is probably located in the next best area, as it will not conflict with other land uses.
    – Land use changes over time. I agree that ‘destination’ facilities probably will decline in popularity as gas prices rise in the future, but it is not like money is being poured into roads that changes every hundred years or so.
    – As a ‘destination’, it will probably attract people from throughout the region, thereby benefiting local business.
    – It will provide local employment.
    – I assume Castlegar will benefit from the taxes they collect from it.
    – You talk a lot about the social impacts of gambling, and that seems to be your biggest concern. But it is legal and therefore not the role of a city to make moral judgments, as you seem to do. Perhaps your beef should be directed to the province or feds?
    – Lastly, with respect to your comments on drinking and driving. This seems like the best location, as, with one way out, enforcement will be relatively simple. I don’t buy the view that it’s location will encourage drinking and driving. Any ‘destination’ facility usually generates vehicle traffic. Whether it be a horse racing track in the lower mainland or a hockey arena in Kelowna, both which serve alcohol. The difference is that, with the location of the gaming centre, it would be relatively simple to provide shuttle service.

    Like you, I am not a planning expert, and just provide comment – to be taken with a grain of salt.

    btw, it is Kira. And my partner is Alex. And no, I did not expect anonymity by using a fake email, as any fool knows a thing or two about IP addresses. However, I do not give out my personal email to just anyone.

  7. One more regarding the social consequences and the role of a city government in passing judgment. Many could argue that religious conflict has caused more deaths and, thus destroyed more families, in the past than gaming centres. So, should communities forbid churches because of this? Of course not. Someone higher up the government ladder has decided the pros of religion out way the cons, as they have casinos. If someone has a personal problem with either one of those decisions, it doesn’t seem to make sense to try to change the world by asking their local city to pass judgment. As I indicated in the previous post, I think it’s location should help mitigate social problems and it will not conflict with other land uses – seems that is the appropriate role for a city.

  8. Well said on many fronts. The government doesn’t make money off religion, but a portion of BC’s budget is from gambling revenue – makes it difficult to be objective about it. We still permit cigarettes to be sold in Pharmacies? Again, tax revenue – even though we know the danger.

    The City was presented with an opportunity to bid for the “right” to be the site of a new gaming center in the Kootenays, (Rossland and Trail, as well as possibly Nelson were bidding for the “honour”). There are many factors in a decision such as this, and the City did take all of them into account. The weighting of those pros and cons may not have been to my liking, but I’m not on Council. It is their decision. We, as residents should feel assured that they approach every situation and proposal with an open mind as there are always two sides to the coin. The City had the choice to make not just a financial, but a moral decision, it’s not like the government said, “we demand you have a gaming center”, rather they actively sought the opportunity. Was there a staff or consultant report on the opportunities and risks of the proposal to councilors, or did they rely on BC Lottery and the developer to provide statistics?

    Is the City relying on the income in the 2009 budget? If so how much?

    Nice to chat, and thanks for your thoughts.

  9. Good point – I knew I was out there with the religion spin, but I often play the role of devils advocate…
    (Although I do remember around the Air India time and the religious violence of the 90’s in Surrey that citizens groups there were mobilizing trying to prevent the establishment of churches of certain religions….)

    I’m still not sure where I stand on the gaming centre, but I felt that the conversation here was not balanced.

    I agree wholeheartedly with where you were going with your last comment. To rely on gambling revenue for regular operations is too risky, rather it should be put to something else the community needs, like affordable housing partnerships maybe….

    http://ir.lib.sfu.ca/retrieve/690/etd1551.pdf

    1. Thank it s really interesting thesis you’ve linked to – http://ir.lib.sfu.ca/retrieve/690/etd1551.pdf
      It does point to the fact that municipalities do hold a lot of power and responsibility in the process of establishing a gambling facility.
      Anyway, we’ll see if the developer actually starts work on construction in the Spring or early Summer. If not, it could be a long way off. Again, thanks for the discussion.

  10. Yes it certainly does.

    Before I go, one more thing. I may not agree with everything here, but most I do in a big way. I applaud your efforts for getting the message of peak oil out there….some people (should I say demographic group) can’t grasp the changes to come. On a more local level, I hope that you keep building support for chickens (goats not too sure) – after all, what’s the big deal with 3 hens? Geesh, you can have a pit bull, but not a hen? I heard that Vacncouver was considering chickens couple of weeks ago, not sure how that went down…

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