Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Letter to Hamilton's Mayor Bob Bratina

Dear Mayor Bratina & Councillor Duvall,

Though I now live in Edmonton to pursue post-secondary studies, I grew up in Hamilton and lived in Ward 7 for some 15 years. My mother and sister are still living in Ward 7 and share my feelings about a downtown casino. We ask that Hamilton city council reject any proposal for a new casino. Please consider the following:

1.       Casinos do not stimulate a recessed economy. In fact, they contribute to the problem. To quote Nobel Laureate Paul Samuelson: (Gambling) involves simply sterile transfers of money or goods between individuals, creating no new money or goods. Although it creates no output, gambling does nevertheless absorb time and resources. When pursued beyond the limits of recreation, where the main purpose after all is to kill time, gambling subtracts from the national income.
2.       Casinos do not attract many tourist dollars. Aside from the rare “destination” like some Las Vegas casinos, most casinos derive the bulk of their revenue locally. It has been estimated that over 90% of casino revenues in Montreal is derived from their local economy. This means that Hamiltonians would be wasting their money gambling so that a multi-national casino operator can profit. Wouldn’t it be better if locals were spending their money on rent, food, clothing, etc. locally?
3.       Casinos take money away from local bars and restaurants. The number of bars and restaurants in Atlantic City dropped more than 40% in just 20 years after 1978 (when their first casino opened). Money that would be spent on food and drinks inside the casino should be going to Hamilton’s diverse bars and restaurants instead.
4.       Casinos do not create jobs. Expert economist Earl Grinols of Baylor University says that, at best, the number of jobs created by a casino is equal to the number of jobs lost.
5.       There are casinos all over the world that are seeing either losses or minimal profits. Even some of the big ones in Las Vegas are in debt (see this article from USA Today). I think you’d agree that an economic sinkhole is the last thing needed in downtown Hamilton.
6.       Casinos are crime magnets. Rates of street crime, fraud, loan sharking, and prostitution increase when a casino comes to town.
7.       Property values go down by about 10% near a casino.
8.       Most casinos are architecturally appalling. Additionally, they require a vast amount of parking (typically about one stall per slot machine). Certainly not something Hamiltonians want in their downtown (nor on their waterfront).
9.       The most significant risk factor contributing to problem gambling is proximity to a casino. If you build a downtown casino, there will be a greater number of problem gamblers in Hamilton.
10.    The social cost of problem gambling is staggeringly high. In addition to resorting to crime, problem gamblers are expensive to treat in order to manage their addictions. Their trails of financial ruin are damaging to both families and businesses. In a 2003 report, Earl Grinols estimates that casinos generate $6.22 of social costs for every $1 of government revenue!


Adam Lohonyai
5-042 Natural Resources Engineering Facility
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
(780) 492-3496

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