Vancouver medical health officer advises against casino expansion

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      A medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health is advising the city not to go ahead with a proposed casino expansion.

      In comments to city councillors at a second night of public hearings Tuesday (March 8), Dr. John Carsley said he had been asked to look at whether a major casino expansion would have an effect on problem gambling.

      Carsley said the data on those potential impacts are contradictory, and don’t present a clear answer to the question.

      “The literature and the state of the research just isn’t far enough advanced,” he said. “Even if it was settled it would be very difficult to quantify any increase or any potential health effect.”

      But Carsley said the potential for an increase in problem gambling is a risk. He described the “devastating effects” that severe problem gambling can have, including family rupture, mental illness and attempted suicide.

      “It is a risk should we go ahead, based on the literature,” he told council, noting that groups the most at risk of problem gambling include low-income residents, aboriginal people, the young and those with mental health and substance use problems.

      “They would suffer disproportionately in any increase in problem gambling,” he said.

      The health officer told reporters following the meeting that he’s advising council not to go ahead with the expansion to avoid the potential risk of an increase in problem gambling.

      “Looking at the literature, there’s no way to say with certainty which it should be,” he said. “What do we do in public health when there’s uncertainty? Well we’ve been chided in the past for saying we’re not going to say anything until we have absolute evidence.”

      “If there’s inconclusive evidence but there is evidence, then you make the prudent choice,” he added.

      In a report to councillors, Carsley advised that, "faced with a potential hazard to health, I believe Council should be guided by caution."

      "Research evidence is contradictory, but there exists the possibility of harm," he wrote. "Should the casino expansion proceed in the hope it will do no harm to our community's health, but later evidence shows the contrary, it will be very difficult to undo the damage."

      In addition to recommending that council reject the proposal to expand Edgewater Casino, he also suggested in his report that the casino operator's contribution to the city's Social Responsibility Fund be increased in proportion to any increase in gambling revenue.

      According to Carsley, B.C. spends the lowest proportion of gambling revenue and the lowest dollars per capita of any province on problem and responsible gambling, at $1.49 per adult in B.C. The average in Canada is over $3 per adult.

      "The proportion of provincial gaming revenues targeted to problem and responsible gambling, the lowest in the country, is inadequate, as are funds identified for research into prevention," he wrote in his report.

      Carsley called problem gambling a “prevalent disease” among the population. Council has heard that the prevalence rate of problem gambling among B.C. adults is 4.6 percent, with 1 percent of that comprised of severe problem gamblers.

      “It’s a significant problem,” he told reporters.

      The physician’s comments came at the end of a second public hearing Tuesday (March 8) evening into the mega-casino proposal.

      If the plan is approved, Edgewater Casino would be moved from its current location at the Plaza of Nations to a site adjacent to B.C. Place as part of an 800,000-square-foot development, which would also include two hotels, restaurants and stores.

      While several speakers earlier in the evening spoke in favour of the proposed Edgewater expansion and in support of jobs for casino workers, the majority of people addressing council Tuesday raised concerns about the plan.

      Speakers included Patsy McMillan, co-chair of the False Creek Residents’ Association, who told council that more consultation should be conducted on the proposal.

      “The issue of expanded gambling in Vancouver should be brought to the community of Vancouver as a whole,” she said. “Very little discussion has ensued regarding the tripling of gambling in downtown Vancouver, nor the issues that may or may not arise from the expansion.”

      McMillan said the residents’ association had requested that Edgewater Casino operator Paragon Gaming meet with them to detail the plan, but no meeting was held with the group.

      Councillors asked Carsley at the end of the meeting to return when the hearing resumes next Monday, March 14 to answer further questions.

      An additional 150 speakers are still scheduled to address city council on the proposed development.

      Tom Durrie, president of the Grandview-Woodland Area Council, speaks at the hearing.




      Mar 9, 2011 at 11:18am

      Well said Mr Durrie, this city has enough Casino's and Massage Parlours/Whorehouses, what happened to this eautiful city?

      Ken Lawson

      Mar 9, 2011 at 11:24am

      What does this guy know, does he know more than any other Medical Officer in Metro Vancouver, if you do proven it!


      Mar 9, 2011 at 12:27pm

      I am so tired of the do gooders in this country trying to change mankind.what have they done to stop the booze and drug problem except parade around like a bunch of twits.People gamble,People Drink, people smoke pot and do drugs.they pretend to be some sort of a God driven cult.Most of the time they are a bunch of busybodies who have nothing else to do with their time.Go down to skid row and adopt a druggie that takes courage.Stay with him through his withdrawal and then start complaining about gambling .The small percentage of those who become hooked on gambling is worthe the savings in tax dollars for the masses.

      Sven Crawson

      Mar 9, 2011 at 12:28pm

      He knows a lot more than you do, Ken Lawson. But typically, you trust the casino peddlers from Las Vegas more than an educated doctor about the societal risks related to gambling.

      Sven Crawson

      Mar 9, 2011 at 2:28pm

      Gar, no one is trying to stop gambling or close the existing casino. Go ahead and gamble away all of your money and fill the pockets of Diana Bennett and Scott Menke if you wish! 24 hours a day, too! But expanding the casino to a much larger size is not going to happen. Imagine there's a liquor store on the corner just down the street from where you live. Would you be happy if they decided to turn the entire block into one huge booze emporium the size of two football fields right next door? I doubt it.

      Things in moderation. There's already enough ways for people to gamble in Vancouver or Richmond or Burnaby, etc. No is trying to take away your right to dump your entire paycheck into a slot machine.

      Now if only all those puritanical conservative twits who are against legalizing prostitution and drugs felt the same way they do about casinos. However, they are just hypocrites.

      Ken Lawson

      Mar 10, 2011 at 9:48am

      Arts and Non Profit Socities are nothing but parasites on the pulbic purse just like the Vision Vancouver group of nobodies! Casino must go ahead and this Dr can start to do his job which is cleaning up the bed bugs and rats that run throught the city apartments in Vancouver

      Peter F

      Mar 10, 2011 at 1:27pm

      The good thing about this is that we can elimate council all togethers.

      Is there risk in construction. A person die as a result of an accident.

      Is there risk in alcohol consumption? Definately. All liquor sales should be banned in the City.

      Seeing Max Pacioretty get hurt in the blood sport hockey, it should be banned in the face of caution.

      There is a chance that a person might be hurt or murdered living in supportive housing. We should ban this activity too.

      Do not get me starting on the dangers of automobiles, cigarettes, dancing (as it may lead to unprotected sex with a stranger), walking and chewing gum.

      Since virtually every activity has a risk to part of society, we should heed the Health Chief warning do nothing without further research. Since we should do nothing, the voices of the people who are represented by council should be ignored.

      We humans come to this earth without that knowledge that everything we do can harm us. Overtime, we learn to do what is best for us. Hopefully we do so in not harming others, not harming ourselves, or harming are environment. There are no guarantees in life.

      Larry Mac

      Mar 10, 2011 at 4:32pm

      In Las Vegas they focus on how new casino(s) will bring more dollars into the city from OUTSIDE the city. If we are to have a big new casino, we should be very careful where it goes so we get the most revenue possible out of visitors, tourists. Targeting your own population with casino gambling is a very big gamble for the city and province. To get the most dollars from visitors a new casino should be right beside the cruise ship facility/convention center or attached to the airport.I would argue it should be at the airport as our waterfront is too good a location for a casino. And why should we give a private company a license to print money by letting them put in a big new casino beside our new sports arena. Hotels yes, casino no. People come here to experience Beautiful B.C., not to gamble.Lets keep our image intact. We are not Vegas. Our newly refurbished sports arena will have mostly local residents in the area. The LOCATION of a big new casino has not been properly addressed. This is not an appropriate location for a big casino, unless you want to target our own citizens for their hard earned dollars.

      Puritanical Conservative Twit

      Mar 18, 2011 at 2:04am

      Folks, the problem with casinos in particular, and gambling in general, is not only that it ruins families, drives people crazy, makes life easier for organized crime, and results in a number of suicides and attempted suicides. Another huge, devastating for the society problem is that gambling teaches people that one does not have to study hard (or even at all), and does not have to work hard (or even al all). Just buy a ticket, or press a button of a computer terminal, and voila, forget about sweating in school, college, and then at work for some ridiculous 50-70 grand a year. Go travel the world, or frolic on the beach for the rest of your days. No wonder there are so many miserable people out there - gambling advertisement drives them sad that they are not "lucky" to be having a permanent vacation. Shame on gambling! All gambling must die. We need to reorient the people to working hard, or else we, as society, are going to be very sorry.