Casino: Gambling for Benefits

There has been much talk of putting a casino in Toronto, either downtown or at the Woodbine complex. I think this is a really bad idea.

The benefits of a casino seem to be extremely variable and often overstated. One Star article quoted the developers as saying $286Million per year could be the net benefit, in cash, to the city of Toronto. The same article said another estimate put the benefit (royalties, taxes, et cetera) at between $100Million and $50Million per year.

In today’s paper, the latest estimate by the gambler-pushers, is $400Million.

I submit that this is ridiculous. We should all take all of these numbers with a huge grain of salt, and perhaps a double dose of Tylenol as well. The developers and pro-gamblers can promise anything at all, as they have no contractual obligation to deliver on future revenues. (Even if they did, they could collapse the holding company and leave us holding an empty bag.)

The Tylenol ™ is for the inevitable headaches the day (and week and year and decade) after. Casinos do not generate wealth, they merely redistribute it. They provide no real service, other than telling you when you win and when you lose, and guaranteeing that the overall effect of the latter will be profitable to them.

Casinos make a large fraction (perhaps 40%) of their profit from problem gamblers.

Disclosure: I play one lottery (649) and I consider my ticket to be a tax on the stupid. I might win big, but it is unlikely. I understand the odds. I play within my limit, eh?

Problem gamblers cannot make any of the above statements. They expect to win, somehow, someday, miraculously. They think they can beat the odds. They play until they can no longer sign cheques or IOUs.

They ruin their lives, and the lives of any unfortunate dependents, lovers, friends.

So, having a casino is like entering one as a problem gambler. You are going to lose, Toronto, and you will be paying the social costs while the casino rakes in more profit for less benefit than you expected. That’s my opinion, and I think it is correct.

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