Civic Election 2011: Port Moody Casino?

Port Moody Casino Referendum 2011

When voters across the province head to the polls on Saturday to choose their local governments, Port Moody residents will be asked to answer an extra question on their ballots. The question is:

Should the opportunity be presented in future, are you in favour of the development of a casino in Port Moody?

The decision to put the question to voters was made last March, when council voted in favour of adding it to the ballot.

This isn’t the first time Port Moody voters have been asked whether they were in favour of a casino. In 2004 a potential casino was rejected by about two thirds of voters. That was then, though, and this is now, and the city wants to know if the sentiment holds.

Why would a city want a casino? In a word: money. A report from the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch says:

Host local governments receive ten per cent of the net casino gaming revenue from community casinos and community gaming centres within their jurisdiction.

For the city of Coquitlam, this meant over $8 million added to their coffers in fiscal 2010/2011, and almost $78 million since the casino opened. That kind of income is a huge boon to local governments, who use the funds to offer grants to local charities and fund projects and programs. If Port Moody had a casino, it would change the city’s financial picture in a variety of ways.

Of course, casinos are not without their downsides. A new casino brings an influx of people, which would mean more cars on packed roadways. Port Moody already has a sore spot when it comes to traffic, and a casino wouldn’t improve things. There are also social costs to gambling, including addictive behaviour and its disastrous financial consequences. Plus, with other casinos in Coquitlam, New Westminster and Burnaby, a casino in Port Moody may be facing stiff competition.

There aren’t any developers currently angling to build a casino in Port Moody, and answering yes to the ballot question will not necessarily change that. What it will do is give council the option to consider and pursue any opportunities that arise. If that should happen, local residents and businesses would likely be consulted. So, ultimately, this question may have little long-term impact on the city. But by gauging voters’ opinions, we will know whether Port Moody feels the benefits of a casino outweigh the potential risks.

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