Elmira Independent Editorial
That's the one thing that Woolwich councillors will have to carefully consider, when they ultimately debate whether the township will be a willing "host community" to a casino.
In recent weeks, councillors have been inundated with statistics — statistics that suggest that a casino could be the township's saviour, or the township's doom, depending on the perspective.
But buried in all the statistics are actual people, even if we cannot see them or know them.
There will be people who will be adversely affected, if a casino comes to Waterloo Region.
The Region's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Liana Nolan, made that point abundantly clear.
Nolan painted the human picture at this week's meeting.
Nolan estimated that up to 8,800 high-severity problem gamblers in Waterloo Region would result from the increased access (NOTE ITALICS NEEDED) of having a casino within the region. A further 26,300 would have moderately severe addictions, affecting up to 98,000 family members.
That's a lot of people, and that's the picture councillors ought to consider the most, when looking at a potential casino for the township. These would be the gamblers that would ultimately bring the most revenue to the township — the ones who are spending the money they cannot afford to lose.
The people in this equation are important, even if they might not seem so, when stacked up against such numbers as $4 million and $3.5 million — the annual potential revenue from gambling and the annual tax revenue, respectively.
It's hard to consider the potential families that could be hurt by problem gambling, because they are merely theoretical at this point. They don't exist, and we don't know them by name. They aren't our friends, family members or co-workers.
But, according to Dr. Nolan, they could be — and that should concern us.
We should also point out that the potential income, at this point, is also theoretical.
Given the fact that, if Ontario Lottery and Gaming has its way, the province is going to be dotted with a variety of casinos, all with similar games, it seems unlikely that tourists will be flocking to a Woolwich-based casino. Instead, it is likely that Woolwich residents will provide the bulk of the revenue.
And, since we don't all have a pot of gold sitting under our beds, just waiting to be spent, this will mean the money spent will be diverted from other entertainment spending, negatively impacting other businesses in the township.
We humbly submit that these business owners, and their employees matter, too, and should be considered as part of the equation, when council ultimately makes its decision.