Lower Mainland casino staff noted a gun-toting man in the Elements Casino parking lot, and a couple with a knife and machete lurking outside Cascades Casino, documents say.
Those incidents are found in more than 100 reports sent to the province’s gambling watchdog between November and May – examples of the kinds of social harms a new casino in Delta or the North Shore could be expected to bring, medical health officers say.
“The potential concern is where crime is a spinoff of gambling addiction,” said Medical Health Officer Dr. Arlene King.
“In general terms, we’re concerned about problem gambling because in instances of severe problem gambling there can be issues of debt, social issues, family dysfunction and suicide.”
Delta is one city considering a new casino, mainly for the new revenue it could bring. But King and colleague Dr. Victoria Lee warned Delta City Council in a letter to consider the negative impacts as well.
“There is no simple way to balance the economic benefits with the risk to the health of individuals and wellbeing of the community,” they wrote. “Faced with a potential health hazard, which will be disproportionately borne by our most vulnerable citizens, we believe that councils should be guided by the best available information in making this decision.”
Reportable incidents were up across the board in 2015: Thefts were up three per cent to 1,642. Fraud was up eight per cent to 250. Loan sharking rose 29 per cent to 208, and suspicious transactions rose 33 per cent to 1,832.
The reports – provided to CTV News through a freedom of information request – are nearly all threats and assaults against staff and security staff. Police were called in most of those cases. In two cases, female casino staff were groped.
The province started a dedicated gambling police unit this spring to tackle crime, though it needs more resources to be successful, said NDP gambling critic David Eby.
“We need to do better,” he said. “We need to find money laundering and deal with these issues not just in Delta but across the province.”
Delta’s mayor wasn’t available for comment, but Delta’s police chief, Neil Dubord, told CTV News the city is prepared.
“There is crime, many types of crime, but it’s not something I think that shuts the door completely to casino construction,” he said.