Should Kingston Roll The Dice?

casino, survey, City of Kingston, tourism, Kingston, Ontario
If you’ve been paying attention to City Council, or even just watching your Twitter feed, you’re likely aware that the City is asking residents to weigh in on the possibility of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) establishing a casino in Kingston.  OLG is opening up the provincial gaming industry to private sector operators beginning this Fall and is looking to see if there is any interest in new markets.  The City has created a survey of eight questions for the purpose of gaining feedback from Kingstonians.  According to OLG’s regulations, only one casino can exist within the E3 gaming zone, which includes Gananoque and Leeds and Grenville United Counties. This means that if Kingston shows interest in a casino, and it is supported by OLG, the Gananoque casino could close and a new facility would be established in Kingston by a private developer.

Of course, the survey is private so it is hard to say where we stand at the moment.  Arguments have been made for and against.  We thought it would be interesting to ask the question too, to give us a better idea of what people are thinking about this, and to hopefully get a good conversation going on the topic.  Accordingly, this week’s poll asks:

[poll id=”120″]

Many arguments have been made for having a casino in Kingston.  It will create jobs and bring in more tourism, generate more funds, and for many of us, it would be fun to have a casino a short walk or ride away.  But the negative effects of a casino are also being considered: the great parking debate rears its head, as does concern for the “party culture” a casino could create (or accentuate).  A more important argument, in my opinion, is regarding the social issues that a casino brings with it.  Can we afford the very real possibility of over-indulgence?  What kinds of programs are in place for gambling addicts in Kingston, or in Gan for that matter?  I also have to question how neighbourly it is for Kingston to take away Gananoque’s golden goose, especially considering we’ve passed up this opportunity once before.

I do enjoy casinos and it would be fun to have one nearby, but I’m not sure Kingston as a whole can handle it, nor do we need it.  We would love to hear your thoughts on this issue and, if you haven’t already, please be sure to let the City know too by filling out the survey.  You can also take the survey over the phone by calling 613-546-6000 and there will be a public meeting to receive feedback at 6:30pm on August 8th in Memorial Hall.

Thanks to Adam Freidin for today’s pic.


Danielle Lennon

Danielle Lennon is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. She was the Editor, Community Event Coordinator and Contributor at-large (2008-2018). She is otherwise employed as a section violinist with the Kingston Symphony, violin teacher, studio musician and cat lover. Learn more about Danielle...

33 thoughts on “Should Kingston Roll The Dice?

  • It's close enough as it is. Multiple shuttles leaving parts of Kingston on a daily basis are also enough for those who can't drive. I don't think the money coming into Gan would be enough to offset the problems that a casino brings: dead zone around it, gambling addictions, crime etc…

  • Some Gambling FACTS You Won't Hear from the Lips of the Politicians prepared to bet their grandmother's bankroll on a casino for Kingston.


    Fact 1: The proximity of casinos increased the incidence of problem gamblers and pathological gamblers by 100% within an 80 km (50 mi.) radius of of the casino.
    Fact 2: Compared to non gamblers, problem and pathological gamblers lost their jobs at rates 3-4 times (300-400%) higher.
    Fact 3: Compared to non gamblers, mental health problems for problem and pathological gamblers was about 2 and a half times (250%) as high.
    Fact 4: Compared to non gamblers, drug use among problem gamblers was 8 times (800%) as high, and among pathological gamblers 4 times (400%) as high.
    Fact 5: Compared to non gamblers, problem gamblers file for bankruptcy at a rate 2 and a half times (250%) as high, pathological gamblers 5 times (500%) as high.
    Fact 6: Compared to non gamblers, problem gamblers were arrested 9 times (900%) as often, pathological gamblers 8 times (800%) as often.
    Fact 7: Gambling costs the U.S. $5 billion annually in lost productivity, extra social services costs and creditor losses.
    Fact 8: Any jobs created by casinos are more than offset by the jobs lost by the resulting closure of nearby restaurants, bars and other entertainment venues. If Kingston does foolishly build a casino downtown the only question that remains is how many more tax dollars we'll need to bleed to cover the even greater revenue losses at Kingston's other downtown "White Elephant", the KROC. But don't take my word for it. Do your own research.

    Kingston cannot afford a casino. End of story.

    • After your first "Fact", all others are irrelevant. Its virtually guaranteed we will '"have a casino within 80km", quite possibly a second one in Belleville too. There is no debate on IF there will be an easily accessible casino, we know there will be complete with free daily shuttle bus. Its a shorter bus trip to the Gan casino then between some points within Kingston with Kingston Transit. The debate is, do we want the casino here so we get the $3m+, or virtually as accessible where we get nothing.

      • "…a second one in Belleville…". Correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that there could only be one casino per zone/district, while Kingston, Belleville and Gan all fell within the same area. Therefore if Kingston were to get a casino it would spell the closure of the one in Gan, and denial of a facility for Belleville. Same thing goes if it were to remain in Gan, or go to Belleville/elsewhere.

        I think you've hit the nail on the head with respect to how many people feel about the casino. Presently we have a casino that's easy for us to get to via free shuttle, but then we incur all the problems those people potentially bring back to the city as a result of problem gambling. And for the honor of being Gan's neighbor, we reap zero direct, financial benefits. Sure some might stop at the King's Crossing etc.. on route, but that's a far cry from the millions the casino alone is pumping into Gan. Do we want a piece of the pie?

        • Hmmm … this is interesting.. glad to hear that Harvey concedes that casinos incur problems… and that potentially these problems are brought back to the city… I would be willing to bet (sorry about that) the problems would dramatically increase were the casino actually located in Kingston. And as for having a piece of the pie … I think this pie has more to do with $$$$ in the pockets of some businesses then quality of life for Kingstonians.

          • In my comment on the press release re: a potential casino I admitted that was leaning in the "for a casino" direction. I think that position has changed somewhat, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that I am totally against it. And for the record I was never blind to the fact that casinos cause problems. Of course a casino will bring a pile of problems to Kingston, or any other community for that matter, but it would also bring a pile of money to invest in everything from treatment programs to road repairs. What makes economic and social sense for a community such as Kingston who has quick and easy access to the casino? We already inherit part of the problems associated with gambling without any of the direct benefits. The question is, how serious would the negative consequences be, and would they undoubtedly cast a shadow over the positive spin-offs.

          • The BIA has come out against a casino downtown, so its not being driven by the business community.

            Presently we have staff working on council's direction to find spending cuts to get the tax increase closer to inflation. We have a huge list of necessary or wanted projects that can't be funded. $3m+ every year would make a huge difference to Kingston's budget. The same councilors and residents who would make the KRock's $500k profit shortfall out as a disaster decided the casino's $3m was a no before any public consultation.

            There was the case where the Ongwanada employee stole hundreds of thousands to spend at the casino…which happened without a casino in Kingston. If Gan wasn't there he might have taken the shuttle(where you come out ahead by taking the bus) to Hull. If there wasn't anywhere he might have spent it online where there is no effort at all to control it and all the money goes to some tax haven registered corporation.

        • You are right and wrong. Its one per zone, but Belleville is a different zone so Belleville can have one too, which probably hurts the prospect of the Gan one moving to Kingston even more.

          If you want to accept there will be a cost in crime increasing if it moved a few km west to Kingston, the $3m could increase Kingston's uniformed patrol cop compliment by 30%. Not that that would ever be necessary.

          • Thanks for the clarification. So Belleville and the municipality of Quinte West fall in zone E2, which is permitted to have up to 300 slots. Kingston is is E3, while this zone includes Frontenac County, Gananoque, Leeds and Grenville Counties. E3 is permitted to have up to 600 slots. Number of table games permitted per zone has yet to be determined. I suspect that number of slots hints at the size of the facility, therefore the casino in E3 would very likely have more than E2's.

  • Sound economic arguments to say "No casino in Kingston."
    Besides,it's very unneighbourly to compete with friendly Gananoque.

  • If we look at Gan as an example, has the crime rate gone up drastically since the casino opened it's doors? Are all the "social problems" that we are warned about rampant in that little town?? I admit I don't go to Gan often but it does not look that worse for having the Casino in their back yard.

    As previous posters have mentioned, given how easy it is to get to the casino in Gan, the negative aspects of having a casino are already there, with none of the benefits of the added money and added social programs to deal with the problem, so right now we get the negatives with none of the positives.

    Even before all of this talk about Kingston potentially getting a casino happened I was hearing that the Gan casino was in danger of closing, so although it might not be neighbourly to compete with Gan, I think that we should go for it and let the chips fall where they may. If the Gan casino was doing very well and was not having problems with viability then the OLG would not have even opened the door to having this discussion.

    I strongly feel that the positives out weight the negatives, and that having the casino in Kingston would give us more resources to deal with the negatives, and also help fund other priorities.

  • Here is one example of a "CRIME" – Gambler bilks Ongwanada | Local | News | The Kingston Whig-Standard

    By Sue Yanagisawa, Kingston Whig-Standard

    Friday, April 13, 2012 10:16:52 EDT PM

    A former supervisor of financial services at Ongwanada has admitted to embezzling more than half a million dollars from the non-profit during the last eight years he worked there.

    Rudolph Wehner, 57, pleaded guilty in Kingston's Superior Court of Justice Thursday to defrauding Ongwanada Hospital Corporation and the Ongwanada Auxiliary Association of $536,608 between 2001 and 2008.

    Justice Wolfram Tausendfreund ordered a presentence report prepared and has adjourned the case to June for a sentencing hearing.

    Wehner was a long-term employee of Ongwanada, an organization that serves approximately 600 people with developmental disabilities and relies on government funds and donations from the community. He was originally hired as a budget control officer in 1979 and he was promoted within 10 years to a supervisory position.

    • Yes he did spend the money at the Gan casino. But the debate isn't whether there should be casinos or not, we know there will continue to be an easily accessible casino. Everyone knows there are for and against arguments for casinos, which are moot as they are here to stay. With how often he was going I think that makes the point that a Gan location might as well be a Kingston location for access from Kingston, just without the $3m+ going to Kingston.

  • Here's another town's experience:
    Casino a crime magnet: RCMP .

    The opening of River Rock Casino in Richmond has led to a quadrupling of casino-related crime and allowed new organized crime groups to gain a foothold in the city, according to an internal RCMP report obtained by The Vancouver Sun.

    • Im not interested in looking into a 6 year old article so we'll accept what it says is accurate. It does say a huge expansion of the casino resulted in a 4 fold increase in police calls. it also says the expansion increased attendance 15X, which means police calls per person decreased substantially! That increased call level, 137 over 6 months to a facility that attracted 15,000 people per day doesn't strike me as very much. The Queen's area has had more police calls in single nights then that casino had in 6 months

      If you increased the number of people anywhere by 15 fold, you'd increase the number of police calls substantially. How many incidents involving the police happen in the hub over 6 months, and how many would there be if there were 15,000 people there every single day for 6 months?

      Other then the 137 calls to the casino facility, it also says "The report found no evidence that River Rock has increased criminal activity in the 500-metre radius around the facility". I don't think the stats in that article make a case to be against a casino in Kingston, especially when we know we'll have one very close anyway, and that much larger one only got 137 police calls over 6 months.

      • Money spent at a casino,resulting in profits to the Casino owners, is money not invested in buying healthy food for the family, in supporting the local arts community,etc.

        • Neither is it if its drives down the highway to Gananoque. There will probably be 5 casinos between Hull and Toronto for us to choose from. I bet the local Arts community would have its hand out if the city suddenly finds itself with an extra $3m.

  • It's one thing to look at the "income" brought into a town from a casino. It's another to look at the social cost of doing so. Here's a pretty comprehensive article that considers the issue of crime, social issues, and casinos in various communities:
    Happy reading!

  • I am surprised at how judgemental some are in how Kingstonians may spend their discretionary income. It is ok to go to bars, dance halls, entertainment venues and live performances however spending $50 in a casino is seen by some as bad for Kingston and bad for Ontario. Casinos will reduce the provincial deficit, they will contribute to increasing local tax revenues, bring in jobs and infrastructure and be the deciding factor why potential visitors would choose Kingston over another tourist destination. A casino will purchase locally, advertise locally and contribute to local charities. Its staff will spend locally. As a business owner in the downtown I ask myself if the casino will benefit or hurt my business. I see only benefits for me personally, for the local economy and other business owners and for the citizens of Kingston as a whole. We have worked to create a regionally-recognized entertainment center in our downtown with wonderful restaurants and bars, the K-Rock Center and the Grand Theatre. A casino would build and solidify this reputation and help put Kingston on the entertainment map.

    • Other local business owners are not supporting the casino, because they think it will hurt their businesses, and the Downtown Business folks oppose a casino. Yes, we have worked hard to create a vibrant and exciting downtown, with restaurants, bars, theatre, and music. A casino will take away from this.

  • It always amazes me how people become so willfully blind to the social costs of a casino when there is money to be made. If this casino is built the millions of dollars it sucks out of our pockets will be dollars that will NOT be going into the other local businesses… are these millions of dollars just going to spring out of thin air… not at all.. it will be coming out of what is essentially a fixed pool, or pie if you like, and there is only so much pie to go around. The only way this would not occur would be if the vast amount of money spent at the casino came from visitors from out of town.. I suspect the target clientele is primarily Kingstonians. If we are to believe Mr Bitonti of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission : “We are battling for the entertainment dollar. Movie theatres, restaurants. The entertainment dollar is VERY LIMITED these days. We are providing an entertainment option. People will spend a hundred dollars on dinner or a hundred dollars at a casino….” Can't anyone else see the implications of this statement. There might well be a few local winners. The contract to run one the restaurants would be a plum. The odd local supplier might benefit but if the proposed size of this venture is any indication local suppliers will not be up to the task. I also suspect that the large companies vying for the right to operate a casino in Kingston will already have contracts with suppliers well beyond Kingston. Collateral damage? well that barely comes up in the conversation when $$$$ are at stake people are expendable.

    • Quinte West Chamber of Commerce has come out in favour of a casino there on the basis there will be one nearby anyway, money spent on gambling anyway, whatever social cost is involved there anyway, so might as well get the benefits in that municipality when the other factors are going to be there regardless.

      Gambling isn't going anywhere. Ontario takes in significantly less per person then some other provinces and OLG is looking to close the gap a variety of ways. There will be more places selling lottery tickets, there will be heavy promotion of OLGs own online gambling, and there will be casinos conveniently reached by most of the population.

      Any new consumer oriented business has the potential to take business from others. Jack Astors isn't expanding the restaurant market or drawing tourists, other restaurants are going to lose business. We don't say they can't open because of that. .A casino will, on its own, both draw people from elsewhere to Kingston, and keep Kingston residents who want to go to a casino here instead of driving down the highway. Along with the city getting the #3-$4m instead of somewhere else.

      • You are right….. Gambling isn't going anywhere … but it does not necessarily follow that we have to have a casino in Kingston. There are very real differences between having a casino in downtown Kingston (which is where it will be if it does come) and one in either Gan or Belleville. Have no doubt about it there will be social and policing costs borne by the city directly and indirectly associated with having a casino in our city. Prostitution, loan sharking and increased drug trafficking will follow. Again I agree with MR that new consumer oriented businesses do impact other similar businesses but to compare the opening of Jack Astors to a Casino is ludicrous. Restaurants open and close in this town all of the time.. it is by in large the same money moving around to different restaurants in different locations and for the most part staying in the community. Not the case with a casino… This is a whole new ball game…Money spent gambling comes out of a finite pot of disposable income and there will be a lot less left in that pot if a casino opens. A casino does not redistribute money it sucks it up and after throwing crumbs back to the city takes it's windfall away. How much of a windfall… who knows.. The estimated $ 3 million return to the city may seem like a lot but that is a just a small percentage of the money sucked out of our citizens wallets and cash registers and never to be seen in Kingston again. And well if Belleville does get a casino the good news is it is further away then Gananoque and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp is not likely to keep two casinos open so close to each other even if they are in different districts. For some the bottom line is money, for others it is quality of life .. the choice is clear.

        • According o the police themselves, as reported by Belleville's chief of police, there should be no increase in policing cost:

          "feedback from several other chiefs in casino-hosting communities indicate having a casino is “not a drain on police resources.”
          She said the city police service would not require any additional police officers because calls for service will not be impacted significantly."

          So do we listen to people who don't want a casino's claims about policing, or the experts in policing?

          Im pretty sure the chance a downtown Kingston location is already zero. Just to move ahead we need 4 of the 3 undecided and 2 undeclared councilors to not be lost on a tie. Some of the declared in favour have already said not downtown. I think it would be better downtown creating an entertainment hub, and complimentary to the KROCK, but its never going to happen with the BIA opposed

        • where exactly do you think it will go downtown? look at how much land Gan casino take up and its one of the smallest ones in Ontario…..if it goes anywhere its out by the 401

  • funny i don't hear Ganonoque screaming at Kingston about stealing their casino.. the casino has stolen lotsa tourist dollars from local merchants in Gan..sure they got a shiny new fire truck but they lost businesses and jobs. i guess the folks in Gan are snickering at us knowing the cost of a casino wasn't worth it. as for Belleville, the Tyendinaga mohawk reserve wants a casino,too there will be a battle over who gets it. in the end we should leave everything as is. if OLG can't make money in gan who sez it can make money in kingston? if they do it will be short term gain for long term pain..its far better to have a cautious inexpensive no then a regretfully expensive yes remember the K-Rock centre? who benefited? the springer family and the frontenacs but the taxpayer has to pay an extra 500k per yr to keep it running, is that fair? is the casino going to cover that cost as well? theres more negatives than positives i'm glad the majority of kingstonians are opposed to the casino and i hope city hall listens to us.

  • So he got arrested at the casino. It does not say that the casino was involved. This is like saying that cigarette smugglers that get arrested on the side of the highway make a case to ban highways as they attract smugglers.

  • I see that 100% of the opponents, comprising less than 1% of the population, have voted. The remaining 99% silent majority are hoping common sense will prevail and the casino will be built.

    • Our weekly poll may not always be in line with popular/public opinion, but it at least shows who our readers are. Would love to hear a bit more from the pro-casino side of the conversation. Why do you think a casino is a good thing for Kingston?

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