LETTER: Do Deltans really want a casino?

Chris Stanton argues against the benefits claimed by proponents of the possible casino development in South Delta.

Staff at the Corporation of Delta identified the Delta Town & Country Inn at the intersection of Highway 99 and Highway 17A as the only appropriate site for a gaming facility and entertainment complex in the municipality.

So, why is a casino such an important item of public infrastructure?

It seems that our Delta Council considers it so important that it immediately expressed its interest in one to the BCLC without any community consultation – or was I blinking at the time?

And since when does the B.C. government have to seek expressions of interest from local governments in order to provide the province with ever more gambling venues? I had thought that the BCLC’s prime purpose was to regulate and control gambling, not to encourage it. But no, I guess Victoria’s insatiable greed for revenue and our own Delta council’s chase for rates have found a way of achieving both through the exploitation of one of our baser instincts – the instinct to gamble.

To treat gaming as a societal necessity, along with health, education and law enforcement, is surely a path that our community just does not want to follow.

Gaming does not give any benefit to the economy; it just sucks money from the most vulnerable and naive in our society to give to the rich by way of excessive executive salaries and government largesse. The only economic benefit claimed for casinos that I can fathom is the tourism that goes along with it; although this is a real benefit, tourism can be more easily and directly achieved in other more socially constructive ways.

When has our Council asked for expressions of interest for a conference centre, a cinema complex, or even a bowling alley? I believe we have one, buried away somewhere in Tsawwassen, but there is no civic will to encourage its revival – just a casino that our kids will not be allowed to frequent, and so they shouldn’t.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve got nothing against the odd flutter. I once won a cake in a primary school raffle. But think about it: all gaming that comes under the BCLC’s purview is stacked against the gambler and in favour of the BCLC to pay for its expenses and executive remuneration while returning a very comfortable “dividend” to Victoria.

So, every time you frequent a casino, or even buy a lottery ticket, your generosity is much appreciated by those who don’t need it but appear to be addicted to it.

True, BCLC makes grants to community, arts and charitable institutions, but these grants amount to less than seven per cent of gaming revenues. While the gullible public win 24 per cent, BCLC’s operating expenses take up 32 per cent and the “dividend” to government the remaining 38 per cent. It’s easy to see where the emphasis is, and it’s not pretty! And you’re right if you see from the above that you have less than one-third of the “luck” that the house has, on average.

In a socio-economic sense, the majority of casino patrons are those who really cannot afford to gamble, along with a fair share of money-launderers and get-rich-quick professional gamblers. As a responsible Delta community, we don’t want to increase the temptation and opportunity for our neighbours to gamble their money away, nor do we want to encourage the nefarious fringe to frequent our fair neighbourhood.

Even Delta’s CAO, George Harvie, is at pains to point out that the chosen casino site (yes, one has already been identified and endorsed by the owner of the site) is sufficiently isolated and removed from schools. He thereby acknowledges that casinos, like marijuana shops and prostitutes, shouldn’t be too close to schools and public places. Thanks, George.

If you agree with the above sentiments, it might be good if you told Delta council this. If you don’t tell them, council will no doubt claim that the community is all in favour of a bright shiny casino to go along with a bright shiny Southlands, a bright shiny development on Burns Bog and a bright shiny Massey bridge.

Chris Stanton, via email