This is the official position statement of the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council given at a public consultation on the question of a casino in the City of Kitchener. The remarks below were given by WRCPC Executive Director, Christiane Sadeler on behalf of the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you tonight on the topic of a casino in Kitchener or the Waterloo Region. I am representing the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council; I also live in downtown Kitchener.
The Crime Prevention Council opposes the opening of a casino within Waterloo Region. However, in the event that a casino should be opened here, we recommend that the development and operations of the casino must incorporate crime prevention considerations and harm reduction strategies from the very beginning.
We have provided you with a full copy of the position statement and also included some materials that we believe are relevant in this context. The position statement is also available on our website (www.preventingcrime.ca). In the interest of time I can only highlight a few aspects of the position.
There has been no dialogue that did NOT at some point mention the concern that crimes increase in the proximity of casinos. Your own city online survey mentions safety along with considerations of health, city image and so on. Fear of long term impact on our quality of life is often as detrimental as crime itself. Perceptions can become reality. Right or wrong the connection between casinos and crime is part of public discourse. And perceptions are hard to change. We know that by now.
But what does the evidence tell us?
This is where it gets a little more grey. The research findings about a connection between crime and casinos are mixed, if not inconclusive. It would not be correct to claim that casinos have a DIRECT impact on crime, at least not an impact that would differ from that of other large entertainment facilities, at first sight. Direct links between crime and any one community action are hard to come by and must always be seen in the context of decreasing crime rates in the last decade.
We therefore must look beyond the direct connections to what we know about risks. What puts us at risk of crime, victimization, and fear of crime? It is here that the public health research is compelling and worthy of your in-depth consideration. We know that over 30% of profits in gambling come from problem gamblers and those at risk for gambling addictions. We know that these individuals share characteristics that are best defined as root causes of crime. We have detailed them in our position statement along with a report about root causes. We encourage you to consult both.
Simply put, whenever we increase the vulnerability of those already at risk, the financial and human burden to them and their families are quickly matched by the community and social costs. While casinos may not directly lead to increases in street level crime, they do lead to increases in other social ills and crimes, such as, intimate partner violence, addictions, etc. From a prevention standpoint these should concern us as much as public safety and disorder issues.
Problem gambling erodes the health of individuals and those close to them and by extension, of the communities in which they live.
The Ontario Lottery Gaming Commission does not deny that gambling addictions exist and that they come at a cost. These are brochures that are provided right at the Windsor Casino entrance, alerting patrons to these risks.
© 2013 Waterloo Region Criime Prevention Council – Over 40 brochures available at the entrance of the Casino in Windsor, Ontario. Problem gambling treatment services to bereavement, mental health and addictions to information targeted to youth, seniors and newcomers. One brochure is provided in multiple languages.
© 2013 Waterloo Region Criime Prevention Council
© 2013 Waterloo Region Criime Prevention Council – A 11/4” stack of brochures offereing problem gambling treatment services to bereavement, mental health and addictions to information targeted to youth, seniors and newcomers.
So, gambling facilities come with warning label. They also come with treatment recommendations if the warning labels were not effective. This is not forward thinking. This is resigning ourselves to the fact that along with these facilities will come problems.
Prevention is cross-generational. Are we OK with a baby born in 2013 becoming the casino patron of 2033? If the answer is, even remotely, “we are not sure”, then we need to hit pause and look more deeply at the research and the rationale for considering a casino here in the first place. Will the benefits justify the costs? Are we informed by the “8-80” concept? Is it a good decision for the 8 year old in our community AND for the 80 year old in our community no matter what walks of life they come from?
Most people who gamble may not engage in criminal activities. But those at risk of gambling addictions are vulnerable to many other issues that come at a social cost, crime among them.
We believe that for the crimes committed by the offender he or she is responsible; for not dealing with the root causes of crime when these are known to us, all of us are responsible.
However, if the decision is to bring a casino to our city the Crime Prevention Council recommends that prevention and harm reduction methods are included in the development and operations from the very beginning. In the position paper, we have outlined 12 harm reduction recommendations. These include considerations about alcohol consumption, placement of ATM machines, opening hours, self exclusion programs etc. The first recommendation is to establish a region wide advisory group with expertise in problem gambling prevention to provide input from the beginning, including during the RFP process.
In conclusion, the decision that you are faced with, in the mind of the Crime Prevention Council, is not to be taken lightly. It is a decision that will affect the well being of generations beyond all of us present here tonight. Waterloo Region is one of the safest and ultimately prosperous communities in Canada. We have become known for innovation and forward thinking. There is little innovative about a casino. We are on a solid path of creating and maintaining a safe and healthy community. It is hard to imagine that we can lose by passing on the idea of a casino. It is easier to imagine what we might lose if we take this on.
Thank you for your time and we wish you well in your decision making.
Christiane Sadeler is the Executive Director of the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council.