Public opinion remains divided on Woolwich casino
The pros and cons of building a casino in Woolwich Township were debated Tuesday night at a public meeting.
“The Township of Woolwich is a business, it’s a corporation, it’s not a church, and they shouldn’t be telling constituents what their values should be,” said township resident Melissa Snyder.
Waterloo Region’s six other municipalities have said no to a casino, meaning Woolwich is the lone potential destination for a new gaming facility in the region.
The township says it’s narrowed its search down to two potential sites – one on Shantz Station Road in Breslau and one on King Street North in the Stockyards area near the St. Jacobs outlet mall.
Woolwich Mayor Todd Cowan says local residents can already gamble without traveling far, so it makes sense to give municipalities closer to home a cut of the revenue.
“There’s a number of places people can go and gamble now,” he said.
“Ten minutes away from here in Elora is also gambling, so we already have it here. It’s not like we’re introducing something new.”
A township report says a casino could bring the township an annual $3.5 million in revenue and create 900 new jobs.
Those are among the reasons why township staff is recommending the township go ahead with plans for a casino.
That recommendation doesn’t sit well with Dr. Liana Nolan, Waterloo Region’s medical officer of health.
“If we put a big casino in the community, with lots of slots and lots of tables, there’s going to be more problem gambling,” Nolan told CTV.
Woolwich Township has held one previous meeting on the subject and sent out a survey to residents, in which the majority of respondents were against the idea of a casino.
Rob Simpson, a former CEO of the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre, says staff should have given that survey more weight in coming to their recommendation.
“The fact that 62 per cent of Woolwich residents in your own poll voted against the casino was essentially disregarded in the discussion and conclusions,” he told councillors.
Another public meeting will take place March 5, the same night councillors are expected to vote on whether they wish to continue pursuing a casino.