Waterloo city council rejects casino

(Graphic by Lena Yang)
(Graphic by Lena Yang)

All bets are off on a Waterloo casino as its city councillors have collectively decided there shouldn’t be one in the city.
The city has overwhelmingly expressed its disinterest in the idea of bringing a casino to the community through both public feedback and a vote passed unanimously last week by city councillors.

“As far as our council is concerned it won’t be in Waterloo,” explained ward three councillor, Angela Vieth. “Clearly the citizens of Waterloo don’t want it here. It’s not appropriate for this town; we have way more potential than becoming a casino town.”

The city received 1,117 responses from the public on the question of bringing a casino to the city, of which 920 voted against the casino, 41 were neutral and 138 were in favour.
Councillor Scott Witmer, for ward one, explained that the city councillors decided to consult with the public on the casino issue for two main reasons: “The sheer scope of the issue, and two, it was not something we had ever heard from the public on. I think it was important for council to get a sense of where the community was at on the idea of having a casino in the city of Waterloo.”

Among the reasons against bringing a casino to the community, the potential for harmful social ills, such as gambling and addiction, were the most popular.
Of the city councillors who spoke to The Cord, most believed that a casino would simply not offer sustainable economic development to the city of Waterloo.

“The question is where do you want people to spend their money?” questioned councillor Jeff Henry for ward six.

“Do you want them to spend their money in the casino where most of that money leaves our community, back to the OLG, or in local businesses and entertainment, in arts and culture in our Uptown, our downtown and in our neighborhoods?”

Sebastian Clarke, a third-year political science student at Wilfrid Laurier University, believed that the city councillors made a wise decision voting against the idea of a casino in Waterloo. “Having a casino, I think, would take away from Waterloo’s sense of being family-oriented. It also opens the door for increased careless spending by students. Students already spend a crazy amount on alcohol and related activities,” said Clarke.

On Monday night, Kitchener joined Waterloo in its decision to end the discussion with the OLG regarding the idea of a casino in Kitchener.

The Kitchener city council also sided with the majority of the public consultation respondents, voting unanimously against the idea. Over 2,000 citizens in Kitchener responded to the public survey, with 75 per cent opposing the idea of a casino.

Cambridge has also rejected a casino, with Woolwich the only municipality voting affirmatively.

“When I think of Waterloo I think of other things driving growth and innovation, like the universities, like our tech sector, like our small business community,” said Witmer. “We’ve got a thriving arts and culture community as well. I think there are a lot of other really great things happening in our community that are doing a great job in providing entertainment, innovation and jobs. I don’t feel that the community saw the casino as something that was going to enhance some of the really good things we’ve got going on here.”

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