A new Wellesley Institute health equity impact assessment – The Real Cost of Casinos – shows that building a casino in Toronto will contribute to poor health in our city. Almost 560,000 Ontarians can be defined as problem gamblers and experience tells us that building new casinos increases problem gambling and leads to poorer health for our communities. But these problems can be avoided by rejecting a casino for Toronto.
In our analysis we found that rates of problem gambling in Ontario are high. Up to 4.7 percent of the population can be defined as problem gamblers and problem gambling rates tend to increase after casinos are built in communities. Rates of pathological gambling in Niagara Falls increased from 2.5 percent to 4.4 percent in the one-year period after the first casino opened.
It is well established that problem gambling contributes to poorer health. In our health equity impact assessment we found that:
- The stress, financial harm, lost work productivity, and addiction associated with problem gambling can contribute to lower overall health status.
- Problem gambling can contribute to depression, insomnia, intestinal disorders, migraine, and other stress-related disorders.
- There are clear links between problem gambling and problem drinking. This combination increases risk of intimate partner violence.
- An alarming 32 percent of problem gamblers report that they have considered suicide within the last 12 months.
A report by Toronto Public Health and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found that problem gambling contributes to fatigue and sleep problems; chronic bronchitis; fibromyalgia; mood, anxiety and personality disorders; and alcohol, tobacco and drug use. They also found evidence of how financial problems contribute to poorer health for families and communities and increase the likelihood of family breakdown and divorce. Problem gambling also contributes to child development problems, neglect, and poverty.
These negative health outcomes affect us all, but some populations are at greater risk. People living in poverty, new Canadians, seniors, and young people are more likely to become problem gamblers and are therefore more likely to experience negative health outcomes as a result. This is concerning because these populations already have poorer health than other Torontonians. These outcomes can be avoided, however, by rejecting a casino for Toronto and the GTA.
The City of Toronto is currently seeking community feedback on the casino proposal. The Wellesley Institute is also hosting a discussion on January 22 with Dr. David McKeown, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, and Jim Cosgrave, from Trent University’s Department of Sociology, on the health and health equity implications of a casino in the GTA. Registration for the event is open now.
[This blog post was updated February 11, 2013]
The video from our discussion on January 22, Casinos and Your Health: Toronto Casino Consultation 2013, is now available here.