Revenue from the new casino in Pickering, Ont., has begun flowing into city coffers, as one expert warns it’s important not to lose sight of gambling’s costs.
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) recently announced the first quarterly payment to the city for its share of the gaming revenue from Pickering Casino Resort, which opened on July 26.
The total of that first cheque, according to the OLG, was $2,439,575.
“The projects that we’re undertaking are transformational,” said Pickering Mayor Dave Ryan.
“And they are generational and they will be here for generations to come.”
The payments will be used to build and enhance city facilities, Ryan said, and won’t be used to fund operating costs.
The money is also expected to grow over time, with the casino only running at partial capacity for now, with many attractions like the hotel still to come.
“We’re very confident that this will be a steady revenue stream for the municipality,” Ryan added.
Balancing cost of problem gambling
Despite the benefits to the city’s finances, addictions councillor Alexandria Baker told Global News it’s important to remember the three to five per cent of the population that are likely to develop an unhealthy relationship with gambling.
“We know that the more accessibility, the greater the risk,” said Baker, a registered psychotherapist with Lakeridge Health, describing what she thinks about when she hears of a new casino opening.
Baker said people who frequent casinos or otherwise gamble should watch for warning signs such as spending more time gambling than they normally would on other forms of entertainment. Another indicator can be that the total spent on gambling is more than one per cent of their income, she added.
Only about 10 per cent of people with gambling problems actually seek treatment, Baker explained, with embarrassment and stigma largely to blame.
“We know that those who experience harms due to gambling experience more shame than others for both the individual [who is] gambling and also their loved ones,” she said.
Tony Bitonti, a spokesperson for the OLG, told Global News the organization is committed to responsible gaming. He cited examples such as the features embedded into games to warn players of problematic behaviour, as well as the ability to “self-exclude” oneself from casinos to take a break from gambling.
Education centres within casinos under the PlaySmart banner also offer resources to players, such as the true odds of the games they play.
“[It tries] to break those myths and really enforce the truths about what’s happening in those games,” Bitonti said.
The City of Pickering plans to set aside a portion of gambling revenues for the Region of Durham with the suggestion it is used for social programs, Mayor Ryan said, in an effort to mitigate any negative effect on problem gambling.
That move is at least a step in the right direction, according to Alec King, a spokesperson for the Canadian Mental Health Association Durham.
“We think that any kind of support or any more enhancement of support for any kind of mental health or addictions issue is really important and really vital,” he said.
Pickering Casino Resort is operated by One Toronto Gaming, a partnership between Great Canadian Gaming Corporation and Brookfield Business Partners.
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