A casino would be bad for Toronto’s health.
That was the blunt assessment by Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David McKeown, as he delivered the second of two reports on the health impacts of casino gambling to the Toronto Board of Health Monday afternoon.
“Overall, I would suggest we can conclude that a new casino will have greater adverse impacts than beneficial impacts,” said Dr. McKeown. “From a public health point of view, a casino is not good for your health.”
Dr. McKeown’s report Monday, Feb. 11 followed up on a November report, detailing the health risks associated with problem gambling. That report found that problem gambling presented a significant public health concern.
The second report looked at the community health impacts of a casino – looking at the potential positives of creating employment and economic development, as well as the impacts on crime, neighbourhoods and the social safety net.
The report brought together studies from various jurisdictions – and found that while there could be small benefits in terms of job creation, the problems a casino would bring in the form of encouraging problem gambling and possibly increasing crime and traffic.
“The evidence is inconclusive concerning the potential impact of a new casino on crime and local economic development,” wrote Dr. McKeown. “As concluded in the previous report, increases in problem gambling are the most important health impact of a new casino in Toronto.”
Dr. McKeown’s findings were refuted by the Canadian Gaming Association.
In a news release, the association said the report is “fundamentally flawed” because it doesn’t deal with the fact casino-style gaming has been easy for Torontonians to access for the past decade.
Dr. McKeown responded to the criticism by pointing out Toronto has some of the lowest levels of access to gaming than any other jurisdiction across the country.
“We have a few slot machines. But our nearest casino is 80 kilometers away,” he said. “When you increase the levels of access there’s more problem gambling that happens.”
Parkdale-High Park Councillor Gord Perks, a vocal casino opponent, said Dr. McKeown’s report should help solidify opposition when the question of whether to allow a casino in downtown Toronto comes to council later this winter.
“I think over the last two or three weeks it’s been clear that a casino would be bad for the economy of Toronto,” he said. “It looks like the only reason to support a casino is to bring in money – and there are ways to bring in money that don’t make people sicker. I can’t see a casino ever being put in the City of Toronto and I think having a respected professional like Dr. McKeown come out is really the finishing touch.”