The following letter was prepared and sent to council by our good friend Valarie Boucher owner of LineArt Consulting. Please take a moment to read it and consider drafting your own letter to your councilor, the city staff and Mayor:
Dear Mayor and Council,
I would like to express my concerns over a downtown Casino in Hamilton. I am a business owner servicing professionals in the core and an east mountain resident. I work in the development, architectural and construction industry and have been advocating for a beautiful urban renewal we can call home since moving to Hamilton 2.5 years ago.
I am not opposed to Casinos. I do not tell people how to spend their money. I do however, have a problem with a Casino in the downtown core.
I am from Toronto, born and raised. I moved to the east mountain (Stoney Creek) 2 years ago for the quality of life. Like many Toronto people and businesses being an urban girl and an urban business, this wasn't easy. However like many others, I have found life, entertainment and the start of a very vibrant, thriving downtown in Hamilton. I support the arts, I support the theater, I support individually owned restaurants. I support locals when I shop and when I hire. Hamilton is in a renaissance attracting people from all over.
Through a marketing initiative Economic Development has been in support of, I, along with a partnership of some prominent businesses have been bringing sustainable Urban Developers to Hamilton. There has been an overwhelmingly positive response to renew our city. These developers have worked in urban cores building cities and bringing sustainable employment; St. Catharine's, Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver in Canada. They have helped bring positive influences to Boston and Portland (a few of the US cities they have worked in). These developers create jobs, they bring people, they revitalize downtown cores, they believe in character, beauty and adaptive reuse; they build great downtown cores. They do not support Casinos in urban cores. Neither do I.
Hamilton, by support from the City of Hamilton and through initiatives of our business owners are making this city, supporting urban renewal, creating local jobs, and supporting local businesses. To even entertain conversations, spend councils time and spend money on the numerous city hall meetings, contradicts everything City Hall , the Strategic Plan 2012-2015, and the City of Hamilton stands for, markets and supports; Urban Renewal, Revitalization, a Vision for being great. These are the reasons I was attracted to Hamilton and gave up Toronto (as have so many others in the last 5 years). Just say NO.
Last week I met with a gentleman who used to be the Financial Controller for the Niagara Casino Association (manages both casinos). He stated if Toronto gets a casino, 90% of Niagara's revenues are gone. He also stated since 2006, Niagara Casino's have been losing substantial amounts of money year over year because Casino's are generally a thing of the past. This has been confirmed via resort casino revenues in the OLG annual reports 2007 to 2011.
I am surprised that our City cannot see the reasons why OLG is enticing them with this offer. Simply point, Casinos have been losing revenues since before the 2008 US recession. The OLG created this mess, yet they are offering a temporary solution to the City to line their pockets. If Niagara, Windsor and Orillia casinos are losing revenues, imagine what the 5 year outcome will be for Hamilton. Much of the same. Our social issues and economic costs will not reduce even if revenues do. A downtown casino just isn't sustainable.
Why not just stay on our path and be patient, follow the vision, stay on the mission of urban renewal; a beautiful, walkable city people want to visit. We should be celebrating everything we currently have, how far we have come in just the two years I have lived here and stay on that path. By building our core, Tourism will follow to visit our waterfalls, our wineries, our entertainment. We should not be looking for quick fixes because someone dangles a bone. We are not dogs.
The fact is downtown cores do not renew because of a Casino. We have proof of that right in front of us. Niagara has been trying to renew their core for over 10 years with no success. Windsor has been trying to renew their core for over 10 years with no success. Brantford has been trying, Orillia has been trying – NO SUCCESS. Look at our unemployment numbers, currently the lowest in Ontario versus theirs – some of the highest in Ontario.
Please do what is right, and if a Casino is important, revitalize Flamborough. It will cost less and won't displace jobs, start a bus service for people to visit Flamborough. The land is cheaper there, build hotels and restaurants to support Flamborough. Let those people keep their jobs. Flamborough is a part of HAMILTON!
Stand up for something or you will fall for everything!
Thank you for your time.
Line Art Consulting