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Gambling addiction concerns over a new casino in Chatham-Kent
A leader in health care addictions is raising concerns about a new casino opening in Chatham-Kent.
The head of problem gambling services at Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare fears there won't be enough counsellors in the area to support a new entertainment destination.
Shawn Rumble tells CTV News he doesn’t think Chatham is well equipped to support those who may need help in the future.
Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Limited announced Thursday the “Cascades” branded casino will be built on land it is acquiring from Brad-Lea Meadows Ltd. at the 615 Richmond St. in Chatham.
According to Rumble, there are only two certified counsellors at the Chatham Kent Health Alliance. He adds there isn't a 12-step program offering peer to peer support.
“So we have those clients coming to our center to participate in our outpatient treatment group and gambling groups.”
Last year, seven people from Chatham travelled to Windsor to attend the hospital’s residential treatment program, which continues to see growth in its numbers.
“We've serviced over 1,100 in 11 years,” claims Rumble. “That speaks to the volume of clients requesting services.”
March is Gambling Awareness Month, so Rumble was surprised by the timing of Thursday's casino announcement.
But the Director of Communications and Public Affairs at Gateway Casinos & Entertainment, Rob Mitchell, says problem gambling is something the company takes seriously.
Mitchell tells CTV News there are guidelines and policies in place laid out by OLG that are strictly enforced.
“All of our staff are trained to recognize problem gambling,” says Mitchell.
“We have the play smart program in place,” says Mitchell. “All our facilities are routinely monitored by OLG and all have kiosks onsite with trained staff to recognize behaviours consistent with problem gambling.”
OLG Senior Manager of Media Relations, Tony Bitonti, says Ontario has the best funded responsible gambling program in North America.
In a statement to CTV News, Bitonti says Ontario spent $58-million last year – including $38-million with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care on treatment, independent research and prevention programs.
He adds OLG partners with counselling services in each community where there is a gaming site.
But Rumble is calling on the Local Health Integration Network to provide additional funds to hire more qualified counsellors.
Construction of the proposed casino, which still requires necessary government approvals and completion of the land acquisition, is expected to begin this spring. Gateway Dresden will continue to operate as usual during construction.