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Hamilton asks for health report on gambling

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 Hamilton’s board of heath wants to know the effects gambling will have on the community if a casino is located in the city.

Ward 2 councillor Brian McHattie said sinceTorontoasked for a report on gambling, Hamilton should do the same.

“We need to know the health impacts of gambling on the community,” he said.

The Toronto medical officer of health’s report found a casino in the Greater Toronto Area will “increase the frequency and severity of problem gambling in the city, and the associated negative health impacts on individuals, families, and communities.”

Problem gambling inOntarioaffects between 1.2 per cent to 3.4 per cent of individuals.

Meanwhile, politicians remain wary of gauging Hamilton residents’ reaction to a possible gaming facility when nobody knows what the proposal will be, nor how will it affect the community.

“You are drafting a question for polling that is based on no substance,” said Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark said at last week’s Nov.14 council meeting. “There is no location. There is no proposal. The polling of residents is completely irrelevant.”

Councillors are interested in hearing from the public what they think of a casino in the city. Downtown councillor Jason Farr has already conducted a survey, while the mountain politicians want to hold some kind of public meeting about the issue.

But so far, there have been only rumours that a developer – the Carmen’s Group – wants to locate a gaming facility in the downtown area. Council continues to back Flamboro Downs as the only place for a gaming facility.

Planning General Manager Tim McCabe revealed he knows some of the proponents who are looking to bid on a Hamilton casino. But he refused to reveal any information to councillors or the public. But he said the proponents may reveal themselves to the community just like they are doing inToronto.

“It’s the proponents (inToronto) who are making the splashy announcements,” said McCabe. “They are trying to get a leg up. I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened inHamilton.”

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation is issuing request for proposals to select private businesses to operate a gaming facility in each of the 29 zones that have been identified by the corporation.Hamiltonis located in the same zone asBurlington. The OLG had given Hamilton until December to decide if it wanted a gaming facility, but a few weeks ago it extended the deadline to March.

Clarkheaped scorn on OLG for keeping Hamiltonians in the dark about their plans to expand gambling across the city and the province.

“We are being led on a leash by OLG,” he said. “There is no opportunity for us to say yea or no. OLG is in control. OLG is not playing straight up with us.”

OLG has toldHamiltonofficials the city will get a bigger cut of gaming revenues from its current $4 million from the slot revenues, to about $5 million. Councillors dismissed the amount as inadequate.

“That may not be sufficient,” said Mountain councillor Tom Jackson.

Ward 8 councillor Terry Whitehead said that increase in revenues doesn’t include any revenues from the gaming tables.

“This is like voting on something sight unseen,” he said.

Added Clark: “I’m not interested in having a large casino inHamiltonfor $4 million. That’s chump change.”

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