I write on behalf on Cambrian Presbytery, The United Church of Canada.
The United Church of Canada has taken a position against gambling for decades. This position has been reviewed many times, and every review has resulted in a position against gambling. Now, we are faced with a new challenge—government-sponsored gambling under the guise of contributions to charitable gaming clubs and the proliferation of video lottery terminals (VLTs) in Northwestern Ontario.
As people of faith, we believe we are called “to seek justice and resist evil.” We believe that to resist the evil of the establishment of a charity gaming club in Fort Frances would be to seek justice for the citizens, the charities, and the small businesses of this community. There is abundant evidence of deleterious affects of gambling, especially VLTs, on communities and their citizens.
Much has been made about the assertion that charities will be the “big winners” with charity gaming clubs. Yet they will receive only 10 percent of the profits from these establishments. Further, only a small proportion of that 10 percent is guaranteed to come to local charities. With the establishment of a charity gaming club, local charities will undoubtedly experience a drastic decline in revenues from their historic forms of fundraising—voluntary contributions, raffles, bingos, and sale campaigns.
Most families have limited budgets for extras—entertainment, luxury goods, and charitable donations. When dollars are fed into VLTs, or spent at gambling tables, they are not available for new shoes, hockey equipment, dinner out, or other purchases which would normally be made in the community. Small business is a big loser.
The cost to the community of gambling is huge. The proliferation of opportunities to gamble increases the probability of problem gambling and addictions. It increases welfare costs. Mental health problems, including depression and stress-related ailments, become a drain on medical services. The workplace is affected by the stress on gamblers and by theft from employers.
Crime rate increase. One can safely assume that the cost of arrest, prosecution, and incarceration for gambling-related offenses will be high. Gambling lowers the standard of living, and increases the need for tax revenue.
Gambling produces human desperation. It victimizes the poor. It has a damaging effect on family life. It undermines the quality of life in a community.
Save the quality of life in our community and “seek justice and resist evil" by voting "no" to charity gaming clubs—and "no” to video lottery terminals—on Nov. 10.
United Church of Canada