Several Montreal communities are not happy with Loto-Québec’s decision to launch a mini-casino near the Bell Centre. Recently, groups from the city’s Montreal’s Sud-Ouest borough and Peter-McGill district of the Ville-Marie borough have declared their strong stance against a gambling establishment in close proximity to the home of the Montreal Canadiens.
A while back the Crown corporation revealed that it is in discussions with Groupe CH to bring hundreds of video lottery terminals, sports betting kiosks, and poker tables at in a three-storey building adjacent to the Bell Centre in downtown Montreal. Before the unprecedented situation, the now-vacant venue was home to the 1909 Taverne Moderne restaurant.
Serge Sasseville, independent city councillor for the Ville-Marie borough’s Peter-McGill district commented that the new gaming establishment could be harmful to vulnerable people in the area. The Bell Centre is in the city’s “red zone” which outlines areas with too many VLTs in bars. Mr. Sasseville said the neighbourhood already deals with issues of crimes, street gangs, and drug trafficking and the casino could deteriorate the situation.
A letter was sent to Premier François Legault signed by Little Burgundy Coalition; the Peter-McGill Community Council; Action-Gardien, Corporation de développement Communautaire and more organizations. It stated the introduction of VLTs to downtown Montreal would have a disastrous impact on the locals, particularly those in the Little Burgundy and Peter-McGill neighbourhoods.
The groups also remarked that the Crown corporation will increase its revenues on the backs of those who are at risk which was unacceptable. Their letter also states that the harmful effects of VLTs are well known and that such machines lead to about 16% of gamblers developing problem gambling. It cited a study from 2019, that every CA$4 out of CA$5 on VLTs comes from those players.
Shauna Joyce, executive director of the Tyndale St-Georges Community Centre in Little Burgundy, reminded that VLTs and lottery tickets are often used by the financially troubled. She noted that the neighbourhood has the highest proportion of subsidized housing in Canada and that there is a sense that the city is preying on the vulnerable and the location of the casino was very intentional.
However, Minister Girard previously commented the provincial government has two conditions for the Bell Centre project. The first one is to have public health as a priority, and the second one would be to try to ensure that if it becomes reality, the project would move toward an overall decrease in video lottery terminals across the province.
Experts also Disapprove the Plans
Montreal. Dr. Jeff Derevensky, head of the International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviours is not a fan of the mini-casino project. He elaborated that gambling accessibility and availability are related to problem gambling, while also noting that it will potentially give opportunity for people to develop a gambling problem or addiction.
Source: Schwartz, Susan “Community groups mobilize against planned Bell Centre mini-casino” Montreal Gazette, April 10, 2023