The Friday Rant: I Vote “No” To A Toronto Casino

You’ll either completely agree with the following diatribe, or vehemently disagree.

I don’t think there’s an “in between” on this subject…

Poor people, and addicts.

That’s it.  That’s all you need to take away from this rant.  Why not start with the conclusion?

I know I’m opinionated, and I don’t profess to know everything.  Please don’t ever think that I believe I’m correct or in any way authoritative in my political musings.  I invite everybody to agree or disagree when I spout off about Toronto politics, and simply respect that unlike most of the people on the Internet, I have no problem putting my political thoughts into cyberspace with my name and contact information attached.

But at the risk of sounding elitist, I’m going to offer the following: I believe that the two most problematic types of people that frequent casinos are these:

1) Poor or unfortunate people who think of gambling winnings as “income.”
2) Gambling addicts, who can’t control their own actions.

Bringing a casino to Toronto, in my mind, would be essentially taxing these two groups.

There are an infinite number of ways for Toronto to generate revenue in our city and in our province, and I would rather see my property taxes raised than see a casino be built so that poor people and gambling addicts can fatten the city’s bank account.

Am I wrong?

You may either believe: a) I’m wrong in assuming that poor people and addicts are the people who frequent casinos the most, or b) that we should raise property taxes instead of building a casino.  Or maybe both.

But I’m putting the shoe on the other foot here.

I’ve said time and time again that even though I don’t use the TTC, I would gladly raise my property taxes and/or pay a highway toll in order to generate revenue to expand the city’s TTC system.

And I think it would be unfair to raise revenue through a casino, because I believe most of that revenue would be raised by exploiting those who can least afford to be in a casino in the first place.

Let me go off on a tangent about casinos here for a moment…

A few years back, I was up at Mount Tremblant with some friends, and we happened upon the casino.

I firmly believe that a casino is entertainment, and nothing more.  Anybody who goes into a casino thinking that they’re not paying for the night through gambling losses is a complete and utter fool.

I decided to cap my losses at $300 – a reasonable sum for a night out on a vacation, based on the fact that we wouldn’t be dropping money at a nightclub that evening, and we stayed in and ate at the chalet instead of going to a restaurant.

My buddy Tucker and I were playing roulette, betting $50 per spin on black/red.  A very foolish game, no doubt, but this is what we were doing, for whatever reason.

Down $50, I went on a roll, and predicted FIVE blacks in a row, and which point I simply said, “Tuck, let’s go.”  We took our $200 and went to the restaurant and ordered more food than we could eat, and enough drinks to take care of the whole bar.  We blew our $200 each, watched Calgary versus Vancouver on Hockey Night In Canada, and laughed at two other guys on the ski trip who were upstairs in the “high rollers room” losing thousands of dollars trying to act special.

A casino is a place to go and lose money.  That’s it.  That’s the whole idea.

If Toronto wants to build a casino, it’s to generate revenue, and nothing more.  I laugh when I hear “casino” and “world class city” in the same sentence.  We have a laughable transit system that will prevent us from becoming a “world class city,” and yet our mayor is talking about building a goddam ferris wheel to try and put us on the map.

I don’t believe a casino will add to Toronto’s reputation, and I don’t believe that the revenue generated at the casino will come off the backs of billionaire oil-kings from the Middle East.

Everybody wants to believe that James Bond movies accurately convey what life in a casino is like; that there’s some Saudi prince dropping millions of dollars at baccarat in a private room.  But for the most part, it’s people who are trying to “beat the casino” and get ahead in life by winning, even though the odds are against them, and hopeless gambling addicts that are being exploited.

Let me tell you another gambling story…

A couple years back, I was in St. Lucia with two girlfriends who had never been in a casino before.

They were fascinated with the “cool, spinny, wheel thing,” so I showed them how roulette works.

I put down $20 and got twenty chips, and proceeded to bet.

My friend Krista said, “Put it on 11 – that’s my favorite number!”  I began to explain that with 40 numbers, each number had only a 2.5% chance, etc., but she cut me off and said, “Just put it on 11 and 17.  So I put $1 on each of 11 and 17, and said, “This is the point of roulette – to throw money away…”

I was interrupted by the sound of the ball hitting the #11 tile, and the dealer put 35 chips in front of me.

My other friend, Trisha, said, “Oh cool!  This is so fun!  Okay put chips on 22, 4, 8, and 15.”

I did, and #4 came up.  Another $35.

The whole point of this exercise was to show the girls how moronic and stupid roulette is, and yet beginner’s luck had netted us immediate results.  We continued to play for 10-15 minutes, and I was up about $300.  We left, went to the adjacent nightclub (funny how the casino was attached to a place that gets you drunk…) where drinks were only $1 each, but after realizing how much I hate smoke-filled, loud, crowded, pretentious, slutty, greasy nightclubs (I was dating my now-fiancee at the time, and smitten like a kitten!), I left the club and went back to the casino.

I sat down at the blackjack table, so drunk that I could barely see the cards.

I proceeded to lose back the $300 I had won, and an additional $600.  I dropped $900 in total, $600 out of my pocket, and the casino took me – as they take everybody who visits.

That is how a casino works.

They take in morons, and exploit them.

I don’t think it’s fair to call gambling-addicts “morons,” but you get what I’m saying.  A casino exploits people, whether they’re rich kids who can afford to lose the money, addicts who refuse counselling, poor people who feel that they can win their way out of their troubles, or drunken idiots like me.

I’m sure there is a good portion of Toronto’s elite who are laughing at the idea of a casino, thinking, “Go ahead!  Get the revenue from the idiots who freely hand over their money!  If it keeps my taxes lower, I’m on board!”

But I don’t think that way.

Gord Perks, a lefty Toronto city counsellor who I absolutely loathe, said something I completely agree with: “I can think of a hundred ways to make the city money. But I choose to do those ones that are fair and actually benefit the city.  They [casinos] make about a third of their money off people who are addicts.”

I agree.

Taking in money off the backs of addicts and the city’s unfortunate is no different from rounding up the city’s homeless and making them collect garbage.  It’s like the Seinfeld episode when Kramer and Newman get the homeless to pull rickshaws; “They’re not doing anything else with their time!”

Bringing a casino to Toronto will create construction jobs, and full-time casino jobs, but the hundreds of millions of dollars that the city of Toronto collects (whether from ownership of a casino, or leasing rights) won’t be equally distributed among Torontonians.  The money collected by the casino will represent an almost voluntary-tax paid by the city’s less-fortunate.

As for the theory that tourism dollars will rise with the addition of a casino to the downtown core, I think that most tourists have a fixed amount of money to spend, and if they spend it at a casino, it means they won’t be spending it at restaurants, sporting events, and theatres.

I vote “no” to a Toronto casino.

Except as with everything else in this city, my vote doesn’t count…

14 Comments

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  1. FrancesMC says:

    I agree with you, Mr. Fleming, including the taxes.

  2. Frank says:

    OK but only if it’s run by the mob and Sharon Stone is serving cocktails. The thought of feeding any more to the Dalton Gang makes me gag.

  3. Bertie Wooster says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with a casino in Toronto. Prostitution is legal, you can play the lottery and the horses, you can smoke pot on the streets, violent criminals get slaps on the wrist, but you want to draw a line in the sand at a casino that would bring in outside investment and tourism?

  4. Pena says:

    long time since my last comment on this blog…..but when in Tremblant i’d prefer Le Scandinave spa over the casino…reached via gondola on the other side of the hill!

    agree or disagree? 🙂

    keep up the good work!

    1. @ Pena

      When there’s no skiing, what else is there to do? Le Scandinave! Nothing quite like going from 110-degrees in the sauna directly out to -30 degrees in the river. That’ll shock the system!

  5. I completely agree with everything you said, and hope that we can find a city planning or other reason to forego a casino in Toronto. They’re tacky and a poor use of space. But I can’t logically justify blocking a casino on the grounds of addiction/exploitation as long as we allow booze and lottery tickets.

  6. George says:

    There is an entertainment factor here. People don’t just go to the casino to try to beat the odds. They go because it’s fun. You can spend hundreds at a hockey game or hundreds at a casino, and maybe you’ll end up having more fun at a casino.

    Your proposed alternative is to pay more tax and have less freedom. I don’t like that deal. Just once I would like the Government to say, “Hey, maybe we should let the people choose what is best for them instead of telling them what is best for them.”

    1. @ George

      I agree that we, the people, should have the choice.

      But when is that vote coming?

      When do we, the people, vote on public transit, casinos, ferris wheels, etc?

    2. JCM says:

      casino’s.. fun..? very few people inside a casino seem tto be having “fun”.. that’s something you only see in the commercials.. Stand outside a casino and watch people leave.. they all seem to have the “I should never have come here” look on their faces..

  7. dave says:

    “A couple years back, I was in St. Lucia with TWO girlfriends who had never been in a casino before.”

    …impressive.

    1. @ dave

      Girl – friends.

      Friends who are girls…. 🙂

      1. Krupo says:

        I think “smitten like a kitten” was a highlight of this article. 🙂

  8. IanC says:

    I agree 100%. If Las Vegas was the only other city that had gambling, you might have a better tourism argument – but heck – Winnipeg has a casino. And there’s one 90 minutes away in Niagara Falls.

    It’s voluntary tax paid by the poor and addicted. And it’s not an efficient tax since you pay to operate the flashy and trashy casino. I guess it’s good for the prostitutes that used to hang out at Woodbine Racetrack looking for winners.

    I HATE the OLG. Making winners pose publicly before getting their prize, ignoring vendor fraud for so long (scandal)… and those stupid commercials. I’m waiting for the commercial where a player forgot just one time to play their “regular numbers – you know.. Grand child’s birthday and all that bull sh#t”… Their winning numbers come up for the first time and they blow their brains out on screen.

  9. BillyO says:

    I’m still undecided on a casino, but one thing that irks me is when people make comparisons to casino cities like Atlantic City and talk about how no world class cities have casinos in their core. Keep in mind London has SEVERAL casinos, including one in Covent Garden, which would be analogous to having a casino here at Eaton Centre/Yonge-Dundas Square. Also in Paris, there is a casino on Champs Élysées, which makes Bloor St look like a run down back alley.

    Now for the other concerns, I totally see the points against a casino, which is why I’m still on the fence. But let’s squash this ‘no world class cities don’t have a casino’ nonsense that has somehow come into the discussion for not having one.

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