The deadline to provide input on whether a casino should be permitted in Woolwich Township is fast approaching.
Postcards and online submissions, indicating either support or opposition to the plan, are due at the township's office by this Friday. Cards may also be dropped off at the Woolwich Memorial Centre in Elmira or the Breslau Community Centre.
Woolwich Township is seeking input from the community on whether it supports the location of a casino within the township.
A presentation from the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation in November outlined the possible establishment of a gaming facility in the municipality. Other municipalities in the region have been approached, as part of OLG's plans to "modernize" its gambling program.
Only one municipality within the gaming zone would be granted a casino, with up to 1,200 slot machines, as well as gaming tables, part of the operation.
At this point, the township is simply deciding whether it would welcome the casino or not; if it supports the idea, then the township would still have to wait for an official proposal, which may or may not come forward.
Cambridge is the sole municipality to date within the gaming zone that has turned down the proposal.
Centre Wellington, which currently has the slots at the Grand River Raceway, has also indicated interest in the proposal. The Slots at Racetrack program is slated to close as the OLG moves through its plan to modernize its gaming program.
At the public meeting, residents expressed both support and opposition to the plan. Those against the proposal cited concerns about the effect of problem gambling, as well as the moral implications of taking revenue from these problem gamblers. Those in support, however, argued that the township should take advantage of the opportunity to gain the additional revenue that would result from the program. OLG estimated up that municipalities could gain $4 million in additional revenue per year from gaming facilities — revenue that would be a boon for municipalities like Woolwich that are struggling with a large infrastructure deficit.
This week, Liana Nolan, Waterloo Region Medical Officer of Health, issued a position paper on the health impacts of problem gambling.
In the paper, Waterloo Public Health raises several areas of concern in relation to "easy access to gambling options."
"The economic cost of treatment, health care, absenteeism from work, and time pent in court per problem gambler is high," reads the statement. "This can lead to a strain on resources for local services, since there is a higher concentration of problem gamblers in communities surrounding a gambling venue."
"The negative consequences of problem gambling must be considered before pursuing the expansion of local gambling options."
Postcards have been sent out to every household within the township, asking residents to indicate "yes" or "no" to the following question: "Do you support the establishment of a gaming facility in Woolwich?"
An online survey is also available at www.woolwich.ca/olgsurvey.
Councillors are expected to debate the issue on Jan. 8, 2013.