Casinos in K–W?

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Waterloo City Council voted in favour of bringing the discussion of a potential casino in Waterloo Region to the public Monday night by establishing the creation of a public consultation forum online. The controversial casino plans have sparked much debate about whether or not a casino has a place in Waterloo or the region as a whole.

The city council voted 6-2 to move forward with the online consultations. Unlike Kitchener, however, the city of Waterloo doesn’t plan on holding any public meetings on the potential casino.

“I think it’s the right thing to do. It’s a really big public issue that can potentially change the nature of our community,” explained Karen Scian, the city councilor for Ward 2 who voted in favour of the motion.

Similarly to how it has been happening in Toronto, the casino in Waterloo Region — which could be placed somewhere near Woolwich Township — has gathered much opposition for ethical and social reasons.

While supportive of the motion to hold online public consultations, Scian noted that a casino in Waterloo might not be the best option for the community.

“I really don’t see how a casino fits into our community,” continued Scian. “We’ve worked really hard to create a high-tech, education-based, knowledge economy. I think we need to have a really strong understanding of what a casino city is, and whether or not we want Waterloo to be a casino city.”

Kitchener, also on Monday night, voted to have public consultations on the casino, but these will be in the form of public meetings.

The reason why Waterloo and Kitchener — Cambridge opted out of the discussion back in November — have been discussing a possible casino is because of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming corporation’s (OLG) goal to build five new casinos in Ontario.

Mark Whaley, the Waterloo city councilor for Ward 5, voted against the motion because he felt the process that the city has adopted is not effective. To him, the process should have included public meetings rather than it being solely online.

“We have directed people to comment on a website and that’s all we’ve really done, and you call that a public consultation?” said Whaley, adding that he’s not entirely opposed to a casino in Waterloo Region. “So call it consultation if you want, but to me it’s just bogus,” he added.

According to Scian, the feedback about a potential casino that she has received so far on social media networks has been negative – the citizens of Waterloo appear to be opposed to the idea.

“They are overwhelmingly expressing a negative opinion about having a casino,” she said. “I think for the most part people just kind of sit back and watch things happen, but asking people to express their opinion about important topics is part of my job.”

The online public consultation for Waterloo begins at the end of the week and will continue until the end of April on the city of Waterloo’s website.

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