By Steve Barnes and Jo Snyder
A new report from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David McKeown, provides more evidence about the community health impacts of a casino in Toronto.
Dr. McKeown sets out how building a casino will impact the health of Torontonians through changes in employment, economic development, neighbourhood impacts, and social safety net impacts. Evidence for local economic development, he writes, is inconclusive. However, available evidence does tell us that a new casino in Toronto is likely to have greater adverse health-related impacts than beneficial impacts. This is an important piece for the City to understand when making its decision. As we continue to build the city and the communities of Toronto, we need to consider the kinds of opportunities are we providing for people to be their healthiest.
One area of particular importance, and one that is commonly discussed as a positive benefit, is the effects that a casino may have on employment. Proponents have argued that a casino will create local jobs, which will have positive health outcomes for Torontonians. However, while having a job is important for health, the type and quality of your job matters. It matters a lot.
Dr. McKeown shows how shift work, the kind of work associated with casinos, can have negative health impacts on people’s health. In addition, casino jobs are often precarious: low skilled, low paid, and often part-time with no health benefits or job security. In addition, he found that studies of casino employees reveal higher instances of depression, problem gambling, problem drinking, and smoking than the general adult population. These are hardly the kinds of jobs that contribute to a healthy city.
For more reading on how our work affects our health, see previous research by the Wellesley Institute’s economist Sheila Block.
The proposed casino will not only affect employment, but also many other social determinants of health, from the impacts of problem gambling and mental health, to the pollution of our physical environment from increased traffic and congestion. Read Dr. McKeown’s full report for more details.
Wellesley Institute will be deputing to the Board of Health as it considers Dr. McKeown’s report on Monday. The Wellesley Institute has also conducted a health equity impact assessment of a Toronto casino – The Real Cost of Casinos – and in January we hosted a forum on the potential health impacts with Dr. McKeown and Dr. Jim Cosgrave from Trent University