Tuesday 21 October 2014

Mayor Bennett to push for casino during next term

Mayor Daryl Bennett made it clear during the Sales and Ad Club mayoral debate at the Holiday Inn on Tuesday, October 21, that if re-elected to office he would push for a decision on a casino in Peterborough. His specific goal is to accomplish this within his next four year mandate, and his preference is to have the casino within city limits.
Daryl Bennett at the Sales and Ad Club mayoral debate

His reasoning is simple enough. Right now, the majority of gamblers at the Kawartha Slots are from Peterborough. From a numbers perspective, then, money is leaving Peterborough and going to Cavan Monaghan Township. By having the casino in Peterborough’s city limits, the municipality would keep that money – and get some revenue from outsiders as well.

Many people have opposed the casino on the grounds that gambling can be addictive, ruining lives, and that gamblers tend not to spend money outside the casino itself. Casino defenders will say that gambling is legal, and already nearby, while the money that would be going into the casino’s coffers would never have been intended for surrounding businesses, anyway.

However, there is a larger, more profound reason for opposing a casino. The long-term growth of Peterborough will be built on people being attracted to the city. They will want to come here and start businesses, and to raise their children here. By having a casino here the city would be deliberately wreaking its own brand and putting at risk the long-term appeal of the city to future entrepreneurs. We’d be chasing quarters while missing out on the real, sustainable dollars that get invested when people move to a city for its quality of life.

Bennett doesn’t see this, for two simple reasons. First, he can’t get his head out of his Excel spreadsheet; he simply lacks the vision to see how his actions could negatively affect future growth. Second – and this might seem like a bizarre reason to some – Mr. Bennett is from Peterborough, and has spent his entire life here. He does not appear to understand how Peterborough is perceived from the outside, and how a casino could damage its brand.

Imagine this. A software developer with two kids, living in Toronto, is looking for a move. She wants to give her children a better quality of life, and to find a community that will help her business grow. She is looking for a community that reflects the kind of life-long investment she is considering. She meets with a fellow entrepreneur in Toronto.

“I’m considering Peterborough,” she says. “I’m hearing great things about it. The housing is more affordable, and it sounds like the right place for the kids to grow up.”

“They just put a casino there.”

Oomph. It’s a real downer. It puts Peterborough down there with Brantford, Thunder Bay, and Sault St. Marie. Let's be honest: a casino is a turn off for businesses and for families looking for a better quality of life. It is a near-sighted view that will actually hinder long-term growth.

In short: it is methadone with bling.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

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