Toronto Public Health has released its highly anticipated report on the health impacts of bringing a new casino to Toronto.
Unsurprisingly, the review determined that increased access to gambling is probably not good for your health. Medical officer of health Dr. David McKeown reported that "hosting a new casino in Toronto is anticipated to increase the frequency and severity of problem gambling in the city, and the associated negative health impacts on individuals, families and communities."
Among gamblers those impacts include possible increases in fatigue and sleep problems, stress, depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and suicide. In families and the wider community, they include financial problems, alcohol or fatigue related traffic fatalities, family breakdown, child neglect, and poverty.
Already, between 1.2 and 3.4 per cent of adults in Ontario are problem gamblers, and there are 11,000 severely addicted in the GTA.
Dr. McKeown doesn't exactly paint a rosy picture, but a position statement attached to the report (see below) outlines some of the safeguards that could be used to mitigate these impacts should a casino make its way the Big Smoke.
- No 24-hour access: closing gambling venues for at least 6 hours per day
- Slowing down electronic gambling machines, and limiting their number
- Eliminating casino loyalty programs, in which frequent customers are given rewards like free trips and limo service to gaming venues
- Prohibiting ATMs on the casino floor
- Prohibiting the casino from supplying customers with credit
- Lower maximum bet sizes
- Putting a cap on how much gamblers can lose in a day
- Strong self-exclusion programs, which let problem gamblers put themselves on lists of people banned from a casino
- Issue statements to gamblers showing their losses, play frequency, and playing time compared to average values
- No alcohol on the casino floor
No doubt any casino operator would oppose many of these recommendations, what with round the clock access, free alcohol, and quick-firing gaming machines being staples of the industry these days.
But the public health report provides a something of a counterweight to a very positive (and hotly disputed) city manager's report that was released last month, which concluded that a new casino would basically solve the city's financial problems. Both documents will be a part of public consultations on a new casino which could start as early as next month.
Council will decide whether to approve a casino in February or March of 2013.