A great deal of controversy has erupted among local government officials following news that the BC Lottery Corporation is interested in hosting a gambling facility in the Delta area. Lois Jackson, the longtime mayor of Delta disagrees with the Fraser Health Authority’s stance on the issue.
There are proposed plans to build a casino slightly to the south of Massey Tunnel, and Major Jackson and other local governments believe that it would be a welcome source of income and tourism in their area. However, they have faced some opposition due to the potential issues that accompany gambling.
In a letter addressed to Delta council members, the Fraser Health Authority expressed some concerns. This letter mentions that 3.3 percent of the citizens in British Columbia are problem gamblers who have a significant risk of “social, physical, and emotional health problems, family rupture, legal troubles, crime, and even suicide.” This letter also points out the fact that problem gambling is more common among Aboriginal populations, youth, and people with lower incomes or mental health issues.
In an attempt to dissuade the construction of the casino, the Fraser Health Authority also told the government officials that data found most casino patrons tended to come from just 20 km away. Therefore, the casino would mostly risk the wellbeing of local citizens instead of the tourists that the government would like to attract. The letter concluded by saying, “Given the myriad health and social problems associated with problem gambling, [the consequences of building a casino] require careful consideration.”
The health officers are responsible for alerting local governments to potential issues of public health, yet their letter has been met with some backlash. In a response given during her interview with CBC News, Mayor Jackson suggested that the health issues raised in the letter should not be the primary concerns of the Fraser Health Authority. Though she admits that there may be some possible drawbacks, Jackson feels that other issues should occupy most of the health officials’ time.
In her statement, Jackson explained, “I appreciate they have their Public Health Act requiring them to advise government…but looking at other major health requirements by the entire population, I just wish they were alerting us to some other thing.” Jackson seems to feel that there are more pressing health concerns than increased mental health risks due to problem gambling among a small percentage of the Delta population.
The Delta mayor pointed out that perhaps the unhealthy food buffets at casinos was a more reasonable cause of concern for the public health officials. She mentioned that just one of the cinnamon buns sold at a casino typically has a fifth of amount of salt that doctors recommend patients eat each day. Eating excessive salt increases blood pressure and causes a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease to sharply rise. Mayor Jackson feels that these are the more pressing health concerns that should be raised by the potential building of a casino.
Because the local government officials do not believe that the public health officials’ warning was very relevant, they are choosing to go ahead with the plans to build a casino in their area. They feel that the benefits will outweigh any disadvantages, so Jackson says, “we intend to go forward with an expression of interest along with the Tsawwassen First Nation.”
So far, no one knows if the BC Lottery Commission will choose to build the proposed casino in this location, but if it does, public health officials will be on the lookout for problematic gambling addictions. Dr. Arlene King from the Fraser Health Authority says that she and her coworkers will “be proactive in trying to prevent the development of health problems” due to the creation of a casino in the Delta area.