Aug. 7th Article in Sudbury Star - Sudbury Casino means net loss .. majority
of comments from readers support article premise.
A Sudbury casino will have "a profound negative social and economic impact" on
the municipality, a local businessman believes.
Tom Fortin, the owner of Ontrak Control Systems, has joined the No Casino
Sudbury movement and made his views known via a two-page ad posted on the
In the advertisement, called "An Economic Look at Sudbury's Proposed New
Casino," Fortin outlines what he believes a casino will do for the city.
In short, none of it is good. If built, he says a casino will take away money
that would have been spent at restaurants and on festivals and events.
"It really does not matter what business you work in. There will be much less
money floating around the community for entertainment, culture and everything
else that makes life worth living."
Robert Williams, a health sciences professor at the University of Lethbridge and
a research co-ordinator for the Alberta Gambling Research Institute, praised
Fortin for understanding "economics 101."
"There's a couple of minor errors in his logic, but essentially his point is
correct," the professor said. "Because of this peculiar situation where the bulk
of the patronage (in Ontario casinos) comes from the local municipality, but the
money is directed at the provincial level or the operator level and is taken out
of the community, there's always going to be a net economic loss to the local
"The essential point he's making is you've got to follow the money, and when you
follow the money you see the money's coming largely from Sudbury residents and
it's going largely to the provincial government and the owner-operator. It's not
going directly back to Sudbury."
Municipal governments, Williams continued, are essentially being bought off by
the host fee -- but at great cost to the local economy.
In March 2012, the provincial government announced plans to scrap the Slots at
Racetracks program, which gave Ontario's 17 racetracks a predetermined
percentage of slots revenue.
In its place is a plan to have private operators build full-blown casinos. The
details are still being worked out by the government and the Ontario Lottery and
Mayor Marianne Matichuk, who's repeatedly said she supports a casino in Sudbury
proper, tied in with a con-v e nt i o n centre and OHL-calibre arena, was
confused by the message of Fortin's ad and the general opposition to a casino.
"I don't understand why there's this big controversy about a casino, because we
already have one," she said Wednesday. "I was looking at some of the information
that's in (the ad), and it's very interesting. That's all I can say."
Williams estimated only 5% of visitors to a future Sudbury casino would be from
out of town, reinforcing Fortin's point that it will redirect money which would
have been spent elsewhere in the city.
"It's basically foolish to think a Sudbury casino will (be able to compete) with
the omnipresent nature of casinos throughout Ontario. If a Sudbury casino made
any sense, it would have been put in place 25 years ago, when the first were
casinos were instituted in Ontario," he said.
" The first casinos were put in places that actually made the most economic
sense -- the border communities of Windsor and Niagara Falls. True to form, up
to 40 to 50% of the revenue came from U.S. residents. So it was a true economic
benefit, as we had an influx of wealth from outside the community."
In Ontario, he said, those who do come from out of town tend to make day trips
to the casinos, eat at the restaurant on site and drive back home, providing
very little economic stimulus.
"People talk about the revenues, but they gloss over where the money goes. I
think it's a conspiracy, maybe unwitting and unknowing, but it's a conspiracy
between the OLG, the casino operators and municipal governments -- the three
winners in this -- over the general public, who are not educated about the
OLG Spokesperson Tony Bitonti refuted a number of statements in the
advertisement. Firstly, he said, it refers to money being taken out of the
country by a U.S. owner-operator, when an operator has not been chosen and could
very well be Canadian.
"When he starts talking about what's leaving Sudbury every year, he's making an
assumption that the operator of Sudbury Downs ... is going to be a U.S. owner.
"There are a number of gaming companies that have shown interest in the gaming
zones we have out there. So we can't assume that it's a U.S. operator."
In addition, Bitonti said the calculations for economic impact -- with $100 to
$150 million listed as the expected gaming revenue for Sudbury -- is incorrect.
That number, taken off the OLG's website, is the expected revenue for all of
"When he says $23 million has been removed from the Sudbury economy (by the
slots at Sudbury Downs), to me that's a little misleading. That money does go
back in various ways to Sudbury, through payments to the city, through hospital
operations, through the Trillium Foundation, through sponsorships.
"There are lots of voices out there, and they can distort the facts the way they
want. We can present our facts. There's different points of views, different
opinions, but (Sudbury) city council said we want to continue to be a willing
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