Special Report: Casino

Predictions About a Downtown Casino, aka A Citizen's Horrorscope

The fix is in and we're being played - all of us, including the majority of Council.

By Graham Crawford
Published November 13, 2012

As much as I'm not a gambler, I bet the fix is in for a downtown casino. I have no insider knowledge, but I do have a gut feel and, given my waistline, that's quite a feeling.

I'd go so far as to predict that Council soon will be approving plans for a new casino - shoved down our throats by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and the provincial Liberals, I might add - to be built at the corner of King and Bay on the parking lot of the now demolished Board of Education building.

Let me add, I wouldn't be at all surprised if an underground parking garage was being planned for the entire site from Main to King, with Mac as the leaseholder.

I'm convinced this will be the unfortunate culmination of a plan that feels as if it's been in the works for quite some time. Let's just say much longer than we've been discussing it publicly. Put simply, I believe we're being played. All of us, including the majority of Council.

I believe that no matter what Council does to try to preserve Flamboro as an active site, it will ultimately be manipulated into a game of chicken because OLG and the provincial Liberals have engineered all of the real decision-making power such that it remains firmly in the hands of OLG.

Barrier Selling

This strategy used to be referred to as "barrier selling" in sales training. You get the potential customer to agree to the first barrier before moving on to discuss the second barrier, thereby making it impossible for the prospect to go backwards.

Saying yes to a casino is the first barrier. Once we say yes to that, then barrier #2 comes into play, which is where to put it. You've already said yes that #1 is acceptable, so you can't take that off the table.

But we said Flamboro was where we wanted it, didn't we? Don't be so foolish. You're only embarrassing yourself.

I predict OLG will say: We heard you, but the operator we've selected does not believe an appropriate ROI is achievable by expanding the Flamboro site. Further, I predict it will be presented as a take it (a downtown casino and its related revenues) or leave it (receive zero revenues) situation.

As a result, I believe Council will panic and ultimately cave, saying we need to ensure we keep tax increases to zero and that we need casino revenues to do that.

Our City Council made the mistake of taking OLG-derived funding and putting it directly in general revenues. It's not a separate fund that is used to fund directly good works, as most other cities with casinos have done.

That means losing $4.5 million in OLG revenue annually would mean they would have to scramble to find it elsewhere and clearly they believe there are very few places where they can find that kind of money.

No More Zero Tax Increases

While it may take until the next Council for this fact to prove true, the year of the zero (or nearly zero) tax increase is, in my view, is a thing of the past. I say that because I simply don't believe we're managing our civic resources properly.

We don't reduce our spending. We don't ever seem to cut staff. Instead, we replace those we lose to attrition, headhunters, and employee dissatisfaction and disengagement.

With a false and misguided focus on zero tax increases no matter the "cost", we end up being held to ransom by so-called partners such as OLG. And there are others. We know who they are.

I predict the new casino at King and Bay will be connected, whether under or over ground, to the convention centre. Although the plot of land is not huge, it can be built up instead of out.

Perhaps the gaming tables, for which the citizens of Hamilton will receive absolutely $0, may be on a separate floor. Above the casino will be a hotel. Perhaps even a Las Vegas-style hotel.

People to Thank

Should my predictions come true, we'll have many people to thank for this.

We can start with the Premier of Ontario, no matter who that turns out to be since the current one has gone into the witness protection program.

We can thank OLG for their clever manipulation of the democratic process through the way they structured the RFQ and RFP and public consultation processes, the "modernized" financial model, and the operator selection. We can thank OLG for holding a gun to our head about a threatened deadline as recently as 40 days ago in our own Council Chambers and then pulling the gun away, saying they were only kidding, and then saying we can have until March to make the decision. Wonder who brokered that extension? Perhaps it was said that given a few more months, things could all be worked out in favour of a downtown decision?

We can thank certain members of Council who fail to realize what's being done to them.

We can thank unnamed and possibly unknown local businesspeople who are intent on doing what's best for them and not what's best for citizens, particularly those who work in the horse industry in Flamboro.

We can thank McMaster for making the deal possible.

We can thank the Board of Education for enabling the deal, although I think they are so out of touch with reality that they had no idea what was happening.

We can thank our own staff for their incompetence in negotiating a good financial deal for Hamilton. They are naive beyond comprehension. Like casting pearls before swine. They take the terms that are offered, no matter how illogical, one-sided, or indefensible.

We can thank all of them for the loss of rural-based employment to the tune of 3,000 jobs that are involved directly in the horse industry.

So many people to thank, but I'll stop there lest I be forced to hire a lawyer. As I said at the beginning, these are merely personal predictions on my part and that I have no insider information.


P.S. Bob Bratina mused to Councillor Judi Partridge yesterday at the Casino Sub-Committee meeting that they could possibly take Hamilton's OLG-derived funds and invest them in the horse racing industry in Flamboro. Let that piece of brilliance sink in: build a downtown casino and then take all of the proceeds to keep the industry alive that you killed by building the casino downtown. Leadership comes in many forms.

Graham Crawford was raised in Hamilton, moving to Toronto in 1980 where he spent 25 years as the owner of a successful management consulting firm that he sold in 2000. He retired and moved back to Hamilton in 2005 and became involved in heritage and neighbourhood issues. He opened Hamilton HIStory + HERitage on James North in 2007, a multi-media exhibition space (aka a storefront museum) celebrating the lives of the men and women who have helped to shape the City of Hamilton.

41 Comments

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By ThisIsOurHamilton (registered) - website | Posted November 13, 2012 at 06:43:44

Brilliant stuff, Graham. No matter how accurate your 'predictions' turn out to be, your contributions to this discussion are sizeable. Kudos to you for expanding the dialogue so cogently.

I would be fascinated to see what would result were we able to have an event similar to Councillor Farr's recent town hall where such approaches to the topic could be expanded upon. Naturally, such a meeting would have to be 'owned' by someone other than a Councillor or the OLG, etc, and hosted elsewhere than 71 Main Street West. Throw in the notion that attendance would mandatory for all Councillors...and we might be getting somewhere. Somewhere akin to this: http://thisisourhamilton.ca/?p=2369

Comment edited by ThisIsOurHamilton on 2012-11-13 06:44:36

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted November 13, 2012 at 07:15:52

Further, I predict it will be presented as a take it (a downtown casino and its related revenues) or leave it (receive zero revenues) situation.

OLG has already said as much to Ottawa, and I'd doubt we'd be getting a better deal than Ottawa. They've been told they can choose whether or not they want a casino "somewhere in Ottawa.* They say their preferred locations, but that has no official bearing. The OLG will select an operator, the operator will say "we want it at Location X," and the city is given the choice of Yes or No.

Edit: Graham, in this situation, where do you see Mac's new building going, or am I being horribly naïve?

Comment edited by mrgrande on 2012-11-13 07:19:54

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted November 13, 2012 at 07:37:12 in reply to Comment 82789

I see Mac's building going exactly where they said they will put it. It's just that I think it's possible they will do underground parking under the entire site while they're at it - Mac building and casino.

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By Longstride (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2012 at 13:24:23 in reply to Comment 82790

If your site prediction is correct, our leaders can lay claim to creating a truly sustainable public health facility. Sustainable in the ourobouran sense, but still.

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted November 13, 2012 at 08:42:15 in reply to Comment 82790

Ahh, right... Mac's building is proposed at Main & Bay, you're thinking a casino at King & Bay.

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By Le Chiffre (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2012 at 07:50:46

"The majority of host municipalities would continue to receive the same benefit under a revised formula."

http://www.olg.ca/assets/documents/media/strategic_business_review2012.pdf

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2012 at 08:37:54

comment from banned user deleted

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By MountainCreature (registered) | Posted November 13, 2012 at 10:30:40 in reply to Comment 82795

The site of the current bingo hall at King & Hughson sounded pretty plausible to me. But Graham's theory about underground parking lot and a done deal also sounds about right as well.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 13, 2012 at 10:37:17 in reply to Comment 82810

That's probably a little 'too' downtown for the casino pushers...

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted November 13, 2012 at 08:41:32

Like casting pearls before swine

Hold on here, I'm missing something... where are the pearls???

That analogy is not quite right. Pearls before swine suggests people who are unable to see the finer things they are being offered. We get offered crap and believe it is finer things. We are more like swine that mistake feces for pearls, (AKA: Rubes, Dupes, Country Cousins, etc...).

Now if those pearls are knowledge, than yes indeed we have been casting pearls before swine for a very long time in this city.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted November 13, 2012 at 08:52:26 in reply to Comment 82796

Ha. I can't really refute your take on the use of the phrase. We are being offered crap. There is no negotiating going on. OLG says x%, and we say OK. Why? We're not even asking for more.

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By Jay Robb (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2012 at 12:31:26

Sadly, my Hamilton sometimes seems to be a hot mess of conspiracy theories, defeatism & finger pointing.

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By Robber Baron (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2012 at 13:24:56 in reply to Comment 82834

If you love Casinos so much, maybe you should call your councillor and ask to put it in your ward. Where is that again?

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2012 at 13:27:22 in reply to Comment 82846

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 13, 2012 at 14:22:22 in reply to Comment 82848

NIMBY is rightly derided when we're talking about an essential service and the best place to put it really is somebody's backyard. Waste has to do somewhere. Power has to be generated somewhere. And so on.

Casinos are a want, not a need like garbage disposal and power and food. It doesn't have to be anywhere.

So don't force it on people when it's a nice-to-have.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2012 at 14:27:29 in reply to Comment 82856

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2012 at 14:29:24 in reply to Comment 82858

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By z jones (registered) | Posted November 13, 2012 at 14:37:34 in reply to Comment 82862

Warning! Warning! Allan Taylor alert.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2012 at 14:41:39 in reply to Comment 82863

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By Nimby (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2012 at 13:32:19 in reply to Comment 82848

Who DOES want it in their backyard?

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By Longstride (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2012 at 12:46:10 in reply to Comment 82834

And spin. You mustn't forget spin.

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By Pshaw (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2012 at 13:11:08

Oh Graham, you're such a card. We can only hope you are right.

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By Johnny Velvet (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2012 at 14:05:55

Speculate location? Dangit, I predict the Stelco Towers!! Already empty...lots of room for gaming tables as well as executive offices and security with 2 banks conveniently located on the bottom floor. Connected to the Convention Centre and accessible by all with HSR depot and underground parking already established! Top floor will be a night club with helicopter escort available at a premium, happily provided by DND and HPS. This very thought is titillating!

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted November 14, 2012 at 08:29:40 in reply to Comment 82854

I like it :)

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By PearlStreet (registered) | Posted November 13, 2012 at 21:29:18

If it absolutely must happen, demote it to the industrial pit by the highway so that it is fueled by those passing through so WE benefit. Also so it does not detract from our aspiring downtown core.

A focus on quality, not quantity of people attracted should be our direction.

Comment edited by PearlStreet on 2012-11-13 21:31:28

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted November 14, 2012 at 00:30:54

I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. I do not think however, it will go where you say. I believe "IF" it goes downtown it would be a new build in an existing parking lot. They will want there complete say in all of the design including parking facilities and enough room for a grand casino entrance etc. Just my opinion "IF" it happens. Like I said, mixed feelings.

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By Conrad66 (anonymous) | Posted November 14, 2012 at 08:33:01 in reply to Comment 82889

Well if OLG whants downtown Bay and King sounds just about wright .. go take a look at it .. they can start from 100 feet down and build there way up

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted November 15, 2012 at 07:58:59

From CBC Hamilton today, "Potential bidders interested in Hamilton casino" by Samantha Craggs: http://www.cbc.ca/hamilton/news/story/20...

From the Hamilton Spectator today, "Bring on the flashy casino proposals, city says" by Emma Reilly: http://www.thespec.com/news/local/articl...

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2012-11-15 08:04:04

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By margeret (anonymous) | Posted November 18, 2012 at 10:48:12

Has good ol' Chaddie(Hamilton's defacto mayor) declared Confederation Park is 'off the table" yet?

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By Dane (registered) | Posted November 18, 2012 at 21:24:13

I say they are looking at the Eaton Centre which recently changed hands - has parking and is built to be much much bigger

or Sir John A. huge foot print and a focal point entrance (you don't have to get to far into the city)

I would believe that this has been in the works for a while and that both properties are being positioned to be developed. Subsequently, this will either create enormous animosity and conflict between existing revitalization happening downtown or those grass-root efforts will actively be dismantled through City enforcement/taxes. All to ensure the success of the casino.

It would be a shame really. All that sweat equity and vanguard entrepreneurship could be undermined.

As an aside; Has there been any research in to how casinos effect property in its immediate vicinity? Jobs have often been a focus but does a casino attract investment? For example will all the parking lots actually get buildings on them? Do people flock to get on the ground floor?

Of course my uneducated assumption is that there is a mass exodus and that business transitions to a "fighting for table scraps" model.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted November 19, 2012 at 14:58:13

Let's hope Graham it happens like you say, but I'd prefer the Royal Connaught as a location. The ballrooms would make great rooms for tables and slots. The ground floor mall could again be filled with retail, there's a restaurant location and the former Fran's. And the rest of the former hotel can be hotel and the pool/waterslide south-side could be a Theatre complex. How anyone could be against that is beyond me. Since gambling already exists in many forms from OLG Tickets, Off-track-betting at bars, free shuttle busses to Brantford and Niagara, Flamboro, Charity Bingos and even illegal org crime casinos. Problem gamblers already have enough outlets, this entertainment complex won't create new addicts. The addicts will be there regardless.

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By wow (anonymous) | Posted November 19, 2012 at 19:24:32 in reply to Comment 83024

Great attitude. The addicts will be there regardless. Indeed. So let's build them their own downward spiral playground.

Why don't you stop and think about what a cåsino at connaught will do to the blocks surrounding it.

Let me give you a hint: businesses will move out, speculators will move in, we'll see more buildings falling down "by accident" and turned to parking lots and the only remaining storefronts will be pawn shops and money marts.

What a fantastic vision for downtown Hamilton. As if we aren't the butt of enough southern ontario jokes already.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted November 20, 2012 at 23:21:01 in reply to Comment 83034

Is that what happened in Niagara?? NO!

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By wow (anonymous) | Posted November 21, 2012 at 09:35:17 in reply to Comment 83070

Niagara Falls is gross. Have you been there? I mean other than inside the cåsino? This is what you aspire to?

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted February 13, 2013 at 00:10:22 in reply to Comment 83084

Niagara Falls was absolutely a hole for the last 40 years. Since the Casinos it has at least started to clean up on a much larger scale than Hamilton.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 21, 2012 at 09:12:50 in reply to Comment 83070

Niagara is already a tourist destination. Casinos make sense in touristy areas, because you're getting revenue from tourists who are in town to spend disposable income.

Hamilton is not a tourist destination.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted February 23, 2013 at 10:30:01 in reply to Comment 83083

Oh ok, I get it. Keep us from being a potential tourist place then. Perfect.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted November 19, 2012 at 15:06:12

And we can always convert the race horse track to a Cascar track and be a part of the car racing industry. There's jobs associated with that and many are rural as well.

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By Nascar (anonymous) | Posted November 19, 2012 at 19:20:11

Finally my investment in a gasoline farm will pay off!

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted November 24, 2012 at 08:53:19

In the Weekend Reader (Forum) section of the Hamilton Spectator today, there is an opinion piece by Kyle Caldwell titled "Casino centophobia (i.e. fear of new ideas)": http://www.thespec.com/opinion/columns/a...

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted November 27, 2012 at 07:56:44

The opinion piece titled “Casino centophobia” by Kyle Campbell in the Hamilton Spectator on Nov 24/12 has elicited these letters to the editor published in today’s Hamilton Spectator:

“A glittering tax machine, nothing more” by Paul Gauthier http://www.thespec.com/opinion/letters/a...

“Casino article superficial and patronizing” by Syd Hielema http://www.thespec.com/opinion/letters/a...

“Casino article exposed closed minds” by Pat Stevens http://www.thespec.com/opinion/letters/a...

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