Toronto Council should flat-out reject any attempts to locate a casino in Toronto on strict public health grounds, Toronto’s Board of Health has recommended.
The board voted to refuse the casino after considering a report from Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David McKeown, looking at the public health impacts of locating a gambling casino in Toronto.
The report is one of two major reports that council will be considering as it decides whether to invite the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation to establish a casino in Toronto.
The report from McKeown recommended that any casino be subject to 10 conditions, to mitigate the significant health problems surrounding problem gambling.
The recommendations including limiting the hours of operation, restricting the number of slot machines, eliminating loyalty programs, keeping ATMs off the gambling floor, prohibiting casino credit, mandating a maximum daily loss and reducing the maximum bet size, banning alcohol service on the casino floor, and issuing monthly statements so players can rate their losses.
McKeown told the board that problem gambling could grow into a significant public health problem as casinos become easier to access.
“The overall evidence is that an increase in availability of gambling leads to more problem gambling,” said McKeown.
He said that currently, about 0.2 per cent of the population are severe problem gamblers. In the Greater Toronto Area, that translates to 11,000 people.
Problem gambling tends to hit men, young people and lower-income people more than others — and can lead to other public health problems.
And according to the report, just one per cent of problem gamblers enter treatment programs.
The board decided to take its opposition to a casino a step further, and recommend simply scuttling any overtures to build a casino here.
“This report leads to a very simple conclusion and that is we should not allow the expansion of gaming in the city,” said Mihevc. “Well, we should say it. That should be our input to the city, speaking as a body interested in public health.”
The recommendations will become a part of the ongoing public consultations, that should culminate in the late winter when council will vote on whether to bet on casinos.