Promises versus reality: the positives
Community Leaders were almost unanimous in agreement that casinos delivered on two of the key outcomes most often mentioned in the run up to the casino development decision: creation of municipal tax revenue and employment.
Employment is a key consideration for any economic development activity, strategic plan or growth strategy. Community Leaders were positive on the employment impact of casinos in their community, noting that the jobs created were quality positions and well paid. The important role played by casinos in creating jobs was, not surprisingly, more pronounced in both smaller and First Nation communities than in larger metropolitan areas and big cities.
Elected officials, as a subset of the overall sample, were pleased with the tax generation and employment created by casinos. First Nation Community Leaders were more likely to note positive impacts in tourism growth, economic development and expanded entertainment options than their non-First Nation community counterparts. This could be attributed to the generally more rural setting of these communities and the casino being instrumental in creating a tourist/entertainment draw for the community.
Promises versus reality: the negatives
Prior to the introduction of casino gaming, public perception of various societal and personal difficulties associated with casino gaming included increased crime, poverty and bankruptcy, traffic, cannibalization of revenue from other entertainment businesses and problem gambling/gambling addiction disorders.
Community Leaders indicated that the majority of these initial concerns did not materialize (most specifically crime and related strains on municipal services). When questioned about incremental demand on public services such as police, fire and ambulance as a result of introducing casino gaming, Community Leaders suggested no such demands were created.
However, the perception of problem gambling—and the issues associated with problem gaming—continues. Further, this issue is consistent across First Nation and non-First Nation communities as well as across both large communities and small communities.
This perception requires further review however, particularly when the Canadian Partnership for Responsible Gambling has been measuring rates of problem gambling on a province-by-province basis annually since 2002 with no overall increases in problem gambling rates.
The bottom line: would you do it again?
The ultimate test of satisfaction with respect to supporting the introduction of casino gaming is, knowing now what actually occurred in a given community versus what was speculated at the time of the original decision, would casinos still be supported today? Community Leaders overwhelming said yes.
When asked if a casino would be accepted or rejected today, the “yes” view outnumbered the “no” view by 3.5 to 1. Those responding “yes” encompassed a broad cross section of respondents from coast to coast, First Nation and non-First Nation, as well as from large and small communities.
Community Leaders are also in agreement—by a wide margin—that the introduction of casinos has been a net benefit for their community. Those viewing casinos as a positive contributor outnumber those with a negative view by 5 to 1. Only 13.1% expressed negative views towards casinos with the remaining either ambivalent or unsure.
No distinct geographic location pattern emerged from the survey results (i.e., positive views outnumbered negatives views in every province, and by a significant margin).
All in all, Community Leaders believe that the introduction of full-service casinos in Canadian communities has been a success.
The complete report maybe viewed at the Canadian Gaming Association website.