About two years ago, when the first public meeting on the Castlegar Gaming Centre was held by the City Council, my suggestions for restraint and increased municipal control over the gambling activities were scorned by business people and councillors alike – all looking for a drawcard for the City for Castlegar, in the form of a Gaming Centre – hereafter known as “The Casino”.
Interestingly, the history of legalized, and state run gambling in Canada is a fairly recent affair, several sources I researched suggested that the criminal code was amended in the late sixties to permit privinces and territories to administer legalized gambling, and then in the mid eighties, the VLT’s or video slot machines were added to the arsenal. Gambling is big money to the provinces, raking in billions of hard-earned cash each year, it is little wonder they are for the continued and expanded legalization of gambling, as they make a healthy profit from it.
A similar thing happened down in the States under Regan…
That was when we became a something-for-nothing society — and, incidentally, it was also the take-off point for legalized gambling all over America (an “industry” based on the worship of unearned riches). And that was, coincidentally, the moment when we became a nation of dupes, grifters, marks, and suckers.
Now the expected casino in Castlegar still hasn’t materialized, despite all the jumping for joy at the prospect of another place to frivolously throw your money away. Will it be built? Who knows, it is not as though the pulp and lumber mill industry that Castlegar relies on for employment is having a great time of it all. Would you build a casino in a town with declining industrial prospects?
But there are bigger picture questions that haunt me… Are we a something-for-nothing society? Has the moral fibre of society crumbed as we’ve focussed on flat screen TVs, SUVs and suburbia? Are we being steamrolled out of sufficient lifestyles by big business and corporations – goaded into McMansions and McDonalds restaurants instead of efficient housing and home-cooked meals.
As a society, we’ve been asleep at the wheel, allowing others to make choices about our day to day lives – where our food comes from, the products we fill our houses with and the way we travel. We need to regain some of that control, we need to show the world that we can lead in decision-making. A casino is a poor amenity for a community, it represents the worship of money and provides little positive benefits to offset the community issues that typically arise. Castlegar has done fine without a casino; the idea that a casino will attract visitors, or that residents will have ample disposable income in the future represent old ways of thinking. We need to appreciate the challenges that rural communities face in terms of economic and social sustainability and build infrastrucuture and systems that support positive responses to these challenges.
A town in rural Australia just voted to totally ban plastic water bottle sales within the town – making it illegal to sell them. THis is leadership, this is sticking your neck out, despite the inevitable blowback from industry or shop keepers. This is the stuff of honest community decision-making – this is moral fibre – all but two residents voted in favour of the ban, this was a decision that was made within an ethical framework, weighing the jobs agains the environmental implications. In Castlegar’s case with the proposed gaming centre, the choice was between job and money, and social implications. Jobs and money won the day.
As the world rounds the bend of peak oil, two things will be clearly evident, that money will not run freely as we’ve experienced in recent decades, and that communities will need to stand strong to remain viable, healthy places to live.