Every time I read about the city getting a casino I cringe. First off, let’s be clear: I don’t like gambling. Gambling is nothing more than a way of taking advantage of people who cannot do math. I would recommend the book “Struck by Lightning” by U of T professor Jeffery Rosenthal for a better idea of what I am taking about. It answer questions like:Are you more likely to win the jackpot from that slot machine, or catch the flu from the person who used it before you?
I have been to Vegas, and I have gambled in casinos before and what strikes me most about them is the façade of excitement and joy. Rob Ford and his supporters are pushing the idea of a casino as a way of invigorating the city and adding much needed revenue to the city coffers, as well as adding jobs. The truth however is much bleaker. When I was in vegas I saw people sitting at slot machines when I went out in the morning from our hotel to go to the Grand Canyon who were still there when we got back 12 hours later. Same clothes, same machine. The law of large numbers states simply that if you play long enough, the casino will take your money.
And let’s be clear, the city will not own the casino. The government may tax the casino, but we all know corporations of ways of avoiding taxes. Someone, presumable a private investor or investors who will be reaping the rewards of human misery. Don’t forget Vegas was founded by criminals looking to launder money, the fact the government takes advantage of it doesn’t make it any less seedy. There are talks of expanding the Woodbine race track, which if you live in the Beach you’re probably not keen on. There are numerous studies that show the impact of casinos on the local communities There are hundreds more if you just search.
But rather than just be a naysayer I have a simple solution if the city wanted to make money from the public. Sell Toronto Savings bonds. Offer 5% interest or a chance to win half the interest of everyone who chooses to gamble. For example if you buy a hundred dollar bond, you could cash it in for $105 in a year. Or people could choose to forgo the $5 to earn a chance to win half the interest of everyone who participates. They still get the hundred dollars back, so they don’t lose anything, but by rolling the dice (pun intended) they get a chance to win. If 100 people participate that is (100 x $5)/2 or $250 dollars as more people participate the bigger the jackpot is.
Before you ask, yes I am aware that this is gambling and I am sure there are laws around why we can’t do this but it seems like a simple way to get city the money it needs to operate, allow people to participate without huge risk, and offer the opportunity of a payout. This isn’t the first time someone had this idea, and it is not without it’s opponents, but I think it’s still preferable to a brick and mortar casino downtown.