The disagreement over the planned Sudbury casino on The Kingsway continues in the city with a new letter by local religious leaders released Sunday night. It was signed by over 50 representatives of religious groups in opposition to the gambling centre envisioned for the so-called Kingsway Entertainment District.
Leaders of belief groups, including Rt. Rev. Anne Germond, Anglican Church of Canada, Diocese of Algoma, Most Reverend Marcel Damphousse, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie, Rev. Marie Bouclin Bishop, Roman Catholic Women Priests of Canada and Humud Mohamad, Imam, Islamic Association of Sudbury have come together to oppose the new casino, saying that it would cause addiction, bankruptcies, crime and family breakdown. In their joint letter, released Sunday nights, religious leaders also warn that the planned gambling facility would lead to depression and addiction in the “vulnerable” communities located near the proposed Kingsway venue.
In their letter, the church representatives cite a 2013 report by the Wellesley Institute, according to which poor people were more likely to spend a larger portion of their household income on gambling. The study, exploring the impacts of casino expansion in Ontario on health, also found that seniors were at a higher risk of developing gambling addictions and become pathological gamblers. The proposed casino location on The Kingsway is within a few kilometres away from subsidized housing and is in a fairly close proximity to the senior community of Finlandia Village, the letter points out.
Urging the city council to stop the relocation of the Gateways casino, the faith leaders remind the public that gambling is “contrary to the ethical norms” and the traditions of the local religious communities. Their letter comes at a crucial moment – Sudbury’s planning committee is meeting Monday and Wednesday at public hearings where the rezoning applications for the casino project will be reviewed. If the rezoning applications are approved, this would be the first step towards creating the new Kingsway Entertainment District, which would start off with a CA$100 million arena, a casino complex, and a hotel part.
Casino Expansion with a CA$60 Million Investment
The proposed casino is supposed to be developed by Gateway Casinos and Entertainment on a 6.96-hectare parcel of land on the north side of the Kingsway. The Canadian gambling company plans to replace the 18-years-old slots venue at Sudbury Downs with a large casino complex which would be constructed in the upcoming Kingsway Entertainment District. It is part of a massive Downtown renewal which would also include a new art gallery and library, a new theatre, and a convention and performance centre.
Gateway has already announced it would invest CA$60 million into the casino property. It would be home to the existing 407 slots at Sudbury Downs by OLG (Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation) but will also expand the offering with more machines. According to official data, the slots venue was visited by 400,000 people in the 2016-2017 fiscal year. During that period, the city received $2 million from the revenue generated by the venue, while $8 million was paid as wages and benefits to the 141 employees at OLG Slots.
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation says that in the past year, it has generated around $4.1 billion in economic activity, with 2.2 billion used for funding hospitals and other local priorities. Some of the money was used for treating problem gamblers, while other funds went to different charities across the province.