The City of Vancouver is voting on whether to allow the expansion of the Edgewater Casino to the lot adjacent to BC Place Stadium. I created the following piece called ‘Safety Zone’ as my response to the issue. One of the major detractors for Casino expansion is the social problems due to gambling addictions.
‘Safety Zones’ are a concept that relates to the external environment around us that may trigger behaviours. Safety Zone is also a reference to football and its association as the last line of defence against the opposition. As Mental Health survivors, we do our best to manage our conditions, whether it is taking medication, modifying our social behaviours and limiting the situations that put at us risk. The new BC Place Stadium Casino grounds is less than 1 Km away from the Downtown Eastside one of the poorest and most troubled areas in all of North America, rife with Mental Health issues, extreme poverty, drugs and other social problems.
Within the shadow of BC Place Stadium and Casino Development live families, artists and the working poor facilitated by lower cost of living in the area; there is a delicate balance that exists in that neighbourhood. However, the temptations of this Casino destination aren’t limited to those with medical addictions to gambling, it will entice others that are in the vicinity, geographically and socially; I call them ‘Sideline Gamblers’. The Casino is a sparkly fun and exciting place, its like Disneyland with a Wetbar. The casual gambler, including working class residents or students may feel the financial pressure from the high costs of living in Vancouver and would look augment their income through gambling. Maybe they only need to make $200 to cover rent, so they will gamble the money in hand to do so. The ‘Sideline Gambler’ may have been successful last week, however what if they fail the next time at the poker table?
I lament at all the wasted creativity and knowledge that is just sitting hours on end at tables, flipping poker chips! Imagine if that creative knowledge could be used to create a new green economy or provide new models for eliminating poverty? Safety Zone is a concept, wider society needs to grasp in order to understand how this may affect people not only with gambling addictions but those struggling with other forms of addiction. BC Lotteries has a campaign that states “Know your limit, Play within in it”. Do our governments know what its limits are? Does it know what the expansion of a Safety Zone does to the social fabric and what that cost is in the whole business case.
A large scale development focused on a Casino as its financial keystone to the return on investment to BC Place Stadium improvements, impacts this Safety Zone. Thus establishes is a direct psychological connection between the casino and the refurbished stadium. Every person who attends a BC Lions Football game, MLS soccer game, Concert or Convention is directly associated by the proceeds of the casino. The Paragon Gaming Group which then pays the lease to BC Place stadium. This direct connection does not exist in the current situation where Edgewater casino exists. So basically, every man, woman and child that enters through the doors of the new BC place are unknowing advocates for gambling. Spectators are contributing to the erosion of Safety Zones and enabling the temptation of addiction and the resulting affects that it will have on the direct community surrounding it.
The piece called ‘Safety Zone’ is created with injection needles from InSite. When I approached them I offered to pay for the unused needles, they wouldn’t take my money but reminded me that the needles are for ‘Harm Reduction’, I said “I know”. Needles in the downtown Eastside of Vancouver have always been symbolic of addictions in the area. When I drove by the new Stadium under construction, the support structures looked like large needles to me. I began to think that Professional athletes and their high salaries are easy targets for addictions. Is a casino next door to the locker a high paying athlete good for the win/loss column of the team. In addition to gambling to casinos, there were other themes of addiction that I began to think about; ones which could be associated with the activities in the BC Place Gambling Zone.
Development: There is an addiction to development that seems to be happening in Vancouver and BC, are we building large scale projects just because we want to, is there real need or one based on our delusions of grandeur? The proponent logic is based entirely on the Economy/GDP, which has no real means of calculating social costs. When more people have cancer, that’s more pharmaceutical drug sales which is good for the economy and GDP. We have an addiction to feed the construction development machine through new and potentially ecologically destructive projects (Damming rivers, Condominiums, Urban Sprawl etc.). Just like gambling we are living and development for the moment.
Sports: With the resulting Olympic Fever, our Government seems to associate anything exciting for our community, based entirely on the thrills of corporate sport. Our government even created a portfolio that linked sport with culture and community . Thus the resulting narrative: Sports makes everyone feel nice inside, lets do it again because everything else sucks. However, there are many people that take their addiction to sports to levels that create tensions in the household. Spending hundreds of dollars on sporting events, plastic trinkets, stuff and sports lotteries vs other household priorities or quality time with our families. Sports has a place in life, but I don’t think it should be everything. When the game is over do you feel depressed and lost, or can you just go on with your day to day life? The shredded up casino playing cards using only hearts in the deck symbolize that lost connection with loved ones, when sports or other addictions get out of hand.
Government Addiction: The Government addiction to Casinos is an unhealthy one. Casino’s take away money from its own residents, it does not generate a new forms of revenue vs the development of diverse ventures. For example; Vancouver is blessed with natural beauty, a bounty of resources and amazing creative talent that we can leverage to create diverse sources of opportunity. Its ironic that Cavalia, a Cirque Du Soliel Experience (born out of Montreal, PQ known for its progressive Arts Funding) is attracting people to watch it in a temporary tent.
I hope that people can find a way to discover their safety zones, it could be geographical, psychological or some other means of health retreat vs a self medicating escape from the realities and problems we face. We need to create mechanisms like escape hatches so that we can quickly retreat to Safety Zones and reflect on what we are doing to ourselves and those around us.