An idea that’s not worth the gamble

Randy Simms
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Who decided we needed another debate about a casino? Seriously, I thought this was settled, with all three major political parties stating categorically that casino gambling was not on.

Now the government of the day is prepared to review unsolicited proposals to build one. What a strange development.

Finance Minister Charlene Johnson says she would give the idea consideration if a proposal came along. How can that be? Her government’s policy opposes the introduction of formal gambling structures, but she says they have to be open to possibility.

“We will always be open-minded for a casino or any other kind of business proposal that comes before us,” she said.

Does that mean the monopoly Nalcor has on energy generation in the province could be broken simply by someone submitting a good proposal for wind or solar power?

I think not.

The problem for the government is that they are saying two different things at the same time. Premier-designate Frank Coleman says he is not pushing for a casino but he wouldn’t rule it out, while the government’s official position is not to allow one.

Casino gambling is not a

good idea for Newfoundland and Labrador, and making the business case to justify such an investment is a stretch.

Our population is small; the numbers needed to support this kind of activity are just not here. Casino gambling will exacerbate the gambling problems we already have, and because our tourism numbers are so low, a casino would have to rely on locals for support. In other words, gambling addicts would be needed to keep the doors open.

The end result would be a redistribution of dollars already in the system, with little gain.  

A cost-benefit analysis might prove interesting to review, but I don’t believe the bottom line for the government would change a whole lot.

Why the government has reopened the casino debate is beyond me.

Opportunities to gamble abound in this province, with VLTs in

every drinking establishment and Atlantic Lotto offerings at every corner store.

Profits from gambling activity — which flow to the government — are significant. A lot of bars would go under if the twinkling bells and blinking lights were removed.

And those gambling profits come at a social cost. Frankly, the money we reinvest to address gambling addiction is mere tokenism. We need to do more to help those caught up in the addiction cycle.

I’m not saying we should ban gambling — it’s a form of entertainment that most people can handle. But as with alcohol, some people are prone to addiction and our obligation to help those we hurt by allowing gambling is part of the price of doing business.

In the next few months we are going to be plunged into the midst of a general election.

All of the political parties will pull out their policy books and espouse the need to diversify the local economy. Surely none of them will suggest that casino gambling is one way of achieving that goal.

Frank Coleman says a casino is not something he will pursue.

“It isn’t an issue that would rank at the highest on my priority list,” he has said.

Good for him. It shouldn’t even be being talked about right now.

If we ever have a direct link to

the mainland (think tunnel) and tourism numbers quadruple, while the cost of delivered goods and services drops like a stone, then we can look at other ways of bringing in new money.

But for now, while we languish as we do, all but isolated from the rest of the mainland, such plans would do more harm than good.

It’s time for our political elites to reignite the imaginations of voters and offer bigger dreams of a better world. It’s all too easy to get lost in political minutiae.

A casino? Is that the best we can do?

Randy Simms is a political commentator and broadcaster. He can be reached at

rsimms@nf.sympatico.ca

Twitter: @RandyRsimms

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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  • Straight-Edger NFLD
    June 02, 2014 - 02:30

    "I’m not saying we should ban gambling — it’s a form of entertainment that most people can handle." Is a mortgage a form of entertainment as well? People are gambling as a super high risk investment is a pension Randy - they can't handle it. This is the sad reality. The handling of entertainment by neer-do-wells, well, they or somebody, with money, can handle ANYTHING, can't they?, as evidenced by imports siezed - heroin, meth, LSD, cocaine, and marihuana. "A lot of bars would go under if the twinkling bells and blinking lights were removed." NO Randy, sorry, the ashtray removal NEVER shut down LIQUOR addiction, nor will VLT units removal. But as with alcohol, ALL OF US people are AFFECTED BY addiction, and must support the white collar social assistance that is ALC, AS, at the same time, we MUST support our addicted relatives to keep good-for-nothings-in-good-clothes in jobs that should not exist - end NLC, end ALC - this is the biggest make work program of all.

  • Guy Incognito
    May 31, 2014 - 17:51

    Excellent article Mr. Simms.......

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    May 31, 2014 - 14:45

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  • Pierre Neary
    May 31, 2014 - 07:51

    Agreed. The social cost is just to much. Danny Williams had it right on this issue. NL does not need a casino.