Do you want a Casino on the Semiahmoo Peninsula?

Do you want a Casino on the Semiahmoo Peninsula? Me either!

A convention centre and theatre complex with multiple restaurants? That sounds GREAT! But unfortunately, it comes with a cost: a major Casino. People in BC our losing their homes and families are breaking up over gambling addictions every day. Why does our government keep pushing for more of Casinos? Who benefits?

Casinos neither create wealth nor produce product. They redistribute wealth from people in our community into the hands of the Casino owners, the government’s general funds, and a smaller and smaller portion back into the community. People lose their homes and life savings in these places. They are addictive and I have seen it happen to friends first hand. Drop the casino, but leave the hotel and entertainment complex, and then you have a proposal that benefits everybody.

The government tells us in their Ads to “Please gamble responsibly”. That sounds so nice. It sounds like all one has to do is gamble in moderation and you’ll be fine. Gambling is ok; just do not make it a habit. It sounds like the government is concerned and wants to help. But what they do not tell you is that gambling is addictive. I do not mean habit forming, I mean addictive. They do not tell you how gambling affects the brain’s chemistry just as effectively and just as real as if it were a drug addition. You can see the effects in an MRI scan of the brain. What they also do not tell you is that you do not get addicted to gambling by playing and winning, studies show that people get addicted fastest by “almost winning” and by watching other gamblers nearby winning.

That’s why Casino’s like to have long rows of Slot Machines so when someone finally wins then the other gamblers in that row see it happening. The brain concludes that one need only play a little while longer, and you’ll get that big pay-off too. The brain is wrong. That is why the government always publishes the names of the lottery big winners. To show your brain that you can win if you keep playing. The same effect occurs when you play slots and almost win the jackpot. When you pull that slot-machine arm, and when you almost get enough symbols on a slot machine to win, the brain concludes that you are getting ever closer to that big payoff and teaches itself that you need to play just a bit more in order to win big, and so you play a little bit more, and more and more. This happens subconsciously in the part of the brain that was designed to help you to learn how to survive. Your brain learns by watching others win or nearly win. Then it concludes that you just need to play a little bit more to win big yourself.

The brain is wrong, the math says that you will lose and it’s the people running the casinos that always win. The games are designed to favor the house, and they always win. They win big.

Unfortunately, it only gets worse from here. I had close friends who started gambling occasionally. It started slowly. They were going to gamble responsibly. What is the harm is playing slots a couple of times a week for entertainment? Then it became three times a week, then four, and then daily. Then they started being late for family dinners and special occasions because they were at the Casino and wanted to play just a few more hours that day. Then they got into credit card debt to help pay for the next round of slots because their, then they lost their nice house near the beach, and then they got divorced, and then it got worse. Just say NO to a new Casino before you have to explain to your kids why they can no longer visit Grandma and Grandpa at their cottage on the lake. Because they lost it to gambling and do not own it any more. Say No before you have to explain to your kids why Grandma and Grandpa no longer come for dinner on the holidays. Because they no longer speak to each other. Because they got addicted to the slots and lost everything.

Does this happen to every gambler? No, of course not. But it happens all too often. It needs to stop. LetSurreyCity Hall know how you feel about a new Casino on the SemiahmooPeninsula now, and then let them know again when you vote in the next election.

The Casino is expected to make a profit of $70 million a year. But Casinos “make” nothing. They only take. And they will “take” that $70 million a year from the people in our community.  Of that, the City of Surrey will receive $6 million each year. But for every dollar that goes into the community, it costs the community $3 in increased social costs and health care costs.

I have heard enough from our government telling us to “Please Gamble Responsibly”. Let’s instead tell our government to “Please Govern Responsibly”. Just say NO to more casinos!

Of course, this is just my opinion, please post yours!
Scott Kristjanson

2 thoughts on “Do you want a Casino on the Semiahmoo Peninsula?

  1. Thanks Scott for summing up the social devastation that is gambling addiction, not to mention the traffic, lights, noise, etc. that will come with a mega project like this. I’m very, very concerned about the push for gambling in our province – this is not NIMBYism, casinos are not good for any community, anywhere. I certainly don’t want to see it 2 minutes from my home, but I’m just as opposed to casino development elsewhere in the region because gambling destroys lives and is a net cost to all of us, as Scott has already argued.

    I’d add to that the social cost my concern for the fragile ecosystems that surround us in South Surrey. Fergus creek runs by this property. It is a salmon bearing stream and it feeds into the Little Campbell River (which borders my property). Concerned members of our community have put in an enormous amount of work over the course of decades to protect this watershed. Without their vigilance the river would not have a salmon run – it would be as barren and degraded as so many other urban waterways. I’m not anti-development (though I am anti-casino), but I do not feel that this is an appropriate location for any kind of major development. All that concrete will lead to inevitable flushes of large volumes of water every time we get a big rain. This negatively affects the salmon habitat and reverse the work of hundreds of dedicated community members over all these years.

    We need a healthy ecosystem to be a healthy community.

    Paul Neufeld

    • Well said Paul and thanks for your support! The salmon habitat and the environment is a very important issue as well. Thanks so mcuh for reminding everyone of that.

      My focus has been on the negative social aspects of Casinos here and across North America. The Casino owners want to ignore the facts and present a rosey picture that is not justified by the research, and which is a disservive to the community. Gambling addiction is a very well understood research topic. A typical gambler will lose about $25 per visit to the casino and some will win on a given visit, while others will end up losing their homes. Your risk of addiction is 8x higher if you play more than 2 to 3 times per month, or spend more than $1000 per year. I have gambled in Casinos in BC, Reno, and Vegas. (Yes, I do my own research too!) The people programming the slots in BC fortunately do not seem to have read the research studies on how to maximize their own profits, and so gambling addiction rates are lower in BC than in Vegas. In Vegas, they optimize the pay-off rate to maximize the effects on the brain psychology and hence addiction. In BC, the casinos are greedier and you lose your $20 in minutes rather than hours. Ironically, this greed means the average gambler is exposed to the effects of gambling addiction less often, and so our BC casinos rip you off faster in the short term, but are less addictive long term. I chalk this up to the Casino’s being run by the government, and thus the Casino Slots run rather incompetently from a programming perspective (which is a good thing for gamblers!). If you are interested in some real data, I point you to a recent study by the University of Calgary: “Risk of Harm among Gamblers in the General Population as a Function of Level of Participation in Gambling Activities”. Another excellent source of data is the paper published by the American Psychiatric Association in 1994, and a more recent article entitled “A hierarchy of gambling disorders in the community” (Ref Addiction, volume 98, pages 1661–1672) which points out that between 1-2% of the population has a serious gambling addiction. About 75% of Canadians have gambled in one form or another including Lotteries and Casinos. So the number of people who go to Casinos and get into trouble is about 4%. Most will deny they have a problem. About 1 in 1000 will seek help, and about one third who do seek help will not be helped, so the failure rate for gambling addiction problems is about 99.35%. If you go more than 2 to 3 per month, you are high-risk for being in that category now or someday.

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