By Andre Dumais, past chair, Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce
This fall, I was one of the directors who resigned from the Sudbury Chamber of Commerce over a question of the chamber’s support for the establishment of a full casino in Sudbury.
Two directors had asked that the chamber reconsider its support now that we have more information on what the casino will be and what the experience has been in other communities.
In 2013, when the chamber did its research, the casino question was a different one.
At the time, the OLG had told communities that they could ask the casino operator to add amenities (such as a convention centre or performing hall) that would enhance the community and Sudbury thought that this might be the way to boost downtown.
In the last few years, it became clear to many that having a casino downtown is harmful to downtown businesses and patrons and so that option was taken off the table.
We also see that the city is not making amenities a prerequisite for having a casino here.
They are, however, eager to reap the rewards they get from a casino (5 per cent of gambling revenues plus property tax) regardless of the effect the casino has on the rest of the community (both business and social).
We also have the experience of the City of Thunder Bay to consider.
A considerable majority of small businesses there think that the casino has been harmful to their economy.
The number of jobs created in the casino is offset by the number of jobs lost elsewhere.
Why would Sudbury’s experience be any different? The only beneficiaries of a casino are the provincial government, the casino operator, and the municipal government.
The chamber of commerce says that its mandate is to advocate for their members, most of which are local businesses. That’s what we’re asking the chamber to do.
Educate businesses about the effects of a casino on the local economy, and what it means to take $100 million a year out of people’s entertainment budgets and send it to the provincial government, and then ask them whether they want one here.