Frank Kennedy

Mike Harris has got Bob Rae’s old “Gambling Disease.”

Bob has it real bad and now poor Mike’s caught it. It’s death to family values. It makes greed and luck appear to be like winning the Boston Marathon. Bob Rae’s Windsor Casino has been a rousing success—some days people line up for hours to try to beat the work ethic. They even had to lease a paddle wheeler riverboat to take care of the overflow.

Mike is so exited about the money-grab that he’s given the go-ahead to a casino in Niagara Falls and another at Rama, an Indian reservation on Lake Couchiching. He’s now planning to flood Ontario with video lottery terminals.

We’re not talking lunch money here. Add on a projected $3 billion for 1997 to the already huge lottery sales. The sports lottery Pro-Line, OLC’s big player next to Lotto 649, caters to males from 18 to 24 to the tune of $230 million a year. Gambling’s downside doesn’t get much media attention. Who wants to hear a slew of hard luck stories from a host of losers?

The Ontario Casino Corporation’s Annual Report happily mentions that 80% of the gamblers are Americans and the reason they came in such numbers is that Canada does not tax winnings but the US does. And with the Americans running the casino at a cost of $27 million last year, any American gambler who doesn’t make good on his marker will be floated back to Detroit.

But the biggest rip-off in the world is video lottery terminals—the crack cocaine of gambling. Mike is enthusiastic about forging ahead with them. VLT’s take less than two seconds to play and lull players into a trance like state. According to Detective Corporal Graig, of the illegal gaming division of Orillia, the province has already let out to tender a proposal for thousands of VLTs.

When quizzed about what was going to happen to the over half a million dollars worth of video gambling machines seized from 270 Ontario people who have been charged recently, Craig said that they would be destroyed if there were no appeals entered within 90 days of the owner being charged. When he was asked why the province didn’t save some money and use the seized machines—he claimed that some machines may have been made by the Mafia locally and might not have given the customer a fair shake. (Can’t the mafia get anything right?)

The raids, which took place recently in York Region, Ontario, followed complaints from wives and other relatives of customers who had “lost $1,000 or more per night using those machines,” police said. You can see with those kind of numbers why Mike Harris wants to do a Capone and take over the business. These VLTs have been deplored as video versions of casino slot machines—the so-called “one armed bandits.” They are discussing things that are absolutely illegal in Canada—unless the government owns them.

Where does the VLT craze end—with a VLT in every washroom cubical, every Becker’s and on every telephone pole? (One analysis claims that every dollar spend on betting machines costs three dollars solving problems they create ranging from addiction and crime to alcoholism and broken families).

Rumour has it that Mike might have to provide workmen’s compensation for ‘gaming enthusiasts’ who have worn out their arms or crippled their thumbs pressing the buttons. Hundreds of millions of dollars will have to be paid out for this—and it would serve Mike Harris right. And don’t say I didn’t warn you, Mike. I’ll be there with my lawyer – and both my arms in slings.