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So Loto-Québec is planning on introducing drinking on the floors of the province’s four casinos as part of a broader effort to update and modernize the casinos to
increase revenue and draw higher attendance. Currently both are down, prompting the péquiste health minister (?) to state “it’s time we got our heads out of the sand and ensures our casinos can be competitive.” As it stands, Québec’s casinos are the only casinos in North America where the consumption of alcohol is not permitted on the gaming floor.

When the Casino de Montréal opened in 1993 it was a bit of a big deal. It was supposed to be classy. The restaurants were top-notch, the chefs and wine selection unbeatable. There was even a dress code – jackets and ties for men, no hats, no jeans etc.

I think this is something we should maintain. Everything about our casino, as initially intended, was almost designed to de-emphasize the gambling:

It’s not a big gray box. It doesn’t disorient the patrons by omitting windows. It invites patrons to step away from the gaming, to go outside and get some fresh air. These are design elements we should continue to value.

There’s no doubt our casino and state-regulated gambling is useful – it funnels money from the people’s pocket back into the government purse. Loto-Québec is a
provincial crown corporation whose mandate is ‘to operate games of chance in the province in an orderly and measured way’ and I would argue strongly they do a
generally good job, even though I’m morally opposed to the practice in the first place.

I suppose it’s not so bad if it’s rich tourists who are losing their money – they can afford it.

But all too often casinos wind up preying, even if indirectly, on the poorest elements of society. The people most desperate for a financial break are all too often those with bad finances and who exercise poor jugement with their money. And whereas there once were controls, like the dress code and limitations on drinking on the playing floor, these have been shelved to accomodate the poor yet regular patrons who provide the bulk of the casino’s revenue during a prolonged period of economic instability, such as we’re experiencing right now.

Why look to locals as our main source of casino revenue? And why isn’t Montreal’s casino generating money specifically for our own needs?

The city could use revenue generated by the Casino de Montréal more immediately and doubtless more efficiently. As it stands today this money is sent to Québec City, where I suppose it’s moved back into general revenue. This doesn’t help us much at all, yet Montréal is on the hook for nearly every negative repercussion from casino operations in the city – everything from the social problems associated with gambling addiction in our poorest neighbourhoods to the inevitable suicides and road accidents that happen on the otherwise deserted junction of Ave. Pierre-Dupuy and the Pont de la Concorde.

So let’s do something different.

The city ought to take in a greater share of our casino’s revenue, but we can’t argue this position unless we’re willing to provide our own plan to increase attendance and revenue. Thus, I would argue strongly that the city should look to acquire the single greatest missing piece from our casino’s master plan – a hotel – and assist in redeveloping the Casino de Montréal with a new hotel and resort component. This in turn could be part of a larger plan to increase the use and revenue generated by all the diverse functions of Parc Jean-Drapeau.

ile jean drapeau
Inter-island Channel, Parc Jean-Drapeau

But where would we build a hotel? Ile-Notre-Dame doesn’t have much space to support a large hotel and construction may render the island temporarily unusable.

Permanently mooring a cruise ship or ocean liner within proximity of the casino presents us with an interesting possibility to get everything we need for a major
casino expansion without having to build much. It would allow us to rather suddenly put a lot of hotel space more or less in the centre of the city’s park islands.

Rather than building new we simply tow a full expansion into position. It would look good, it would be exceptionally unique and would further serve to provide a lot of direct financial stimulus for our otherwise underused (and at times worn-down) Parc Jean-Drapeau.

I’ve often felt that this grand playground lacks any unifying cohesiveness – it’s simply the space we put all the stuff we can’t place elsewhere. We’ve purposely
concentrated a lot of diverse entertainment in one space and have done well in maintaining that space’s utility within the public conception of the urban environment. Yet it’s still very detached, isolated even, from the rest of the city.

I feel a floating hotel solves more than one problem, using the location’s relative isolation to its advantage. For locals and people from the region, it could provide a much-needed ‘urban resort’, a place to get away from it all that’s oddly located in the middle of everything.

For foreign tourists or families on vacation, it provides a hotel in a controlled environment almost exclusively dedicated to family friendly activities. Re-
instituting the dress code and prohibiting drinking from the gaming floor in this newly expanded casino could serve to help sell the image of a classy and unique
vacation experience catering to a wide variety of tastes.

Think about it: Parc Jean-Drapeau is a large multi-use park with a considerable natural component, occupying roughly the same amount of space as Mount Royal Park (2.1 square kilometers). It features, among others, a beach, an aquatics centre & rowing basin, manicured parks and trails, an amusement park, a historic fort and a premier outdoor concert venue. Placing a hotel in the middle of it, associated with the aforementioned casino, would surely drive up revenue not only for the casino but everything else going on at the park as well.

It could conceivably make the park more useful during the winter months and provide sufficient new revenue so as to redevelop the Biosphere, Helene-de-Champlain
restaurant and give the whole place a facelift too. And I don’t think it would take much of anything away from the city’s existing hotels as, from my experience, Parc Jean-Drapeau is nearly exclusively used by locals, being perhaps a little too detached for tourists.

For your consideration, this rather handsome looking (and famous) ocean liner, the SS United States, can accomodate 5000 people and is in desperate need of a buyer to keep her from the breakers:

SS United States by Wikipedia contributor Lowlova

Definitely worth reconsidering, in my humble option. If you happen to be looking to buy a cruise ship, look no further.

Do you want to know which three letters of the alphabet are the most dangerous? I’ll tell you; VLT.

Hi, my name is Johnny and I’m addicted to gambling.

My story starts out like most others. I lived a fairly clean life for most of my days. Sure, I liked a glass of red wine with dinner, was into some very specific and troubling pornography and enjoyed the films of Mark Wahlberg, but all in all I was living a pretty calm and untroubled life.

I never bet on anything or partook in games of chance. Frankly I found it absurd when I’d see a row of people in a bar sitting silently for hours, pumping bill after bill into those greedy machines. I’d wonder how someone could throw away their money so readily to something that didn’t even give them a thrill anymore and was clearly more detrimental than anything, as I flung back Crown Royal and ginger ales until I couldn’t remember what country I lived in.

Then came the day that sent my life spiralling out of control like a football thrown by a football team man who has some sort of hand injury that prevents him from throwing a football properly (I’m bad with sports and analogies).

I was waiting for my hired companion to return from the ladies’ cocaine room at an upscale nightclub, when the flashing lights and sensual purr of a nearby video lottery terminal caught my attention. It promised me riches by the hundreds, it distracted my judgement with bright colours and catchy music. And how could a game in which lining up pictures of cats was the goal be a bad thing?

I inserted five dollars. That wouldn’t be a big deal, I reasoned. That’s less than the price of one of the cans of sangria I’d been buying for my lady friend all night. I hit the max bet button. My five dollars became $7.50. I don’t know if it was the cheery fanfare meowed by the electronic cats or the amphetamines coursing through my blood, but something changed in me at that moment.

I played the cats until the bar closed. My date got bored and left or OD’d and got taken away in an ambulance or something, I don’t know. What I do know is that at the end of the night I was up nearly two hundred dollars.

I began playing video gambling machines of all kinds. I hardly paid attention to how much money I was losing, but fooled myself into believing that each big win was covering any losses and I was coming out ahead. I didn’t want to see the truth. That these machines were evil. That each time I lined up three sevens it might as well have said 666. 666 was the street address of a sushi place that gave me food poisoning once, so the number had bad connotations for me.

The VLTs were just the start, though. I quickly began craving the excitement of more high-risk wager games. Poker tables, roulette and blackjack all lost their thrill quickly, too. I started betting on horse races and dog races, then later dog fights, then horse fights. Once I lost $1500 to some German businessmen on an octopus fight.

Before long I was in debt to some rather undesirable individuals and I ended up resorting to more extreme measures. I narrowly escaped a game of Russian roulette with some Romanian immigrants in Chinatown. At least I was broadening my cultural horizons. I lost three fingers playing Clue in an underground fight club that had a pretty bad flu going around it at the time.

I lost an eye in a black market bet on who would see the first robin of spring. Then I lost my glass eye in a game of marbles and had to replace it with one of those big marbles, which I then lost betting on the Oscars. Though, with Jennifer Lawrence taking home the Best Actress award, we really all won that one.

And now look at me. When will it end? Will it ever end? I don’t feel like I know who I am any more.

I’m sitting at a desk I don’t recognize in an office that feels foreign to me. I look at the framed photo sitting here; a wife and three beautiful children, and they’re strangers to me. Who is this man? I don’t even know. He is scared and crying.

But I better not over think this, the mafia capo said if I don’t kill him by midnight tonight it’ll be me at the bottom of that river. Those were the conditions of the bet I lost to him on who could dance the Charleston for the longest.


Photo by Roadsidepictures via Flickr