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The Ontario Liberal party recent budget has asked interested parties to submit their applications for more slot machine casinos in Ontario.

I have to confess that I had never visited the Western Fairís Slots in person until recently.

The web site of the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Association was most enticing. "Excitement for everyone!". With 750 slot machines in action, the centre is truly a winnerís wonderland set in a Worldís Fair Theme. The gaming emporium is open seven days a week twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Association has published the data. "The slots have been opened for the past eleven years with daily attendance of 3,900 players a day. This year the City of London received a cheque for $5,000,000 for itís share of $90 million gross gambling profits.

I had to see it to believe it and off I went to visit the gambling emporium in our Forest City around the noon hour. The glitzy fluorescent sign "SLOTS" was a beacon to follow.
I dropped in for an hour to experience - "Entertainment With A Spin". My wife, Ella. and I made our way into a very large opulent room with the slot machines clanging and banging. Strange, there were no windows or clocks.

There are security guards at the entrance to welcome you and enforcing the rules that you had to be age of 19 to be admitted. Not to worry - most of the players were middle aged women sitting on high back stools playing the slots.

A few men seemed to wander from machine to machine. Not a suit/tie or womenís formal wear was to be seen.
You had to see-it-to believe it: dozens of people sitting in front of terminals robot like pushing on the buttons.

Every machine had a bilingual message:"Know Your Limit. Play Within It" that warned the customers of the consequences of gambling. The slot machines are divided into categories accordingly to the wagers of 1 cent to $5.00.

Here is how you play the slots: you bring along your cash or use the Currency Exchange machines to access your credit/debit card. You put your slot debit card into the machine press the buttons and wait to see the magic configuration to appear.

There is a big hullabaloo of bells/whistles and lights when your machine pays off the jack pot. The sound and fury seems to last for ever. Reminds me of the hustler at the fair holding aloft your teddy bear prize for all to see and keep the "marks" playing.

When you want to cash out if you are one of the most fortunate to have won you take your "Tinto" voucher to the cashier to receive your money.

There are various promotions that award you bonus points with Rewards, Silver and Gold Memberships designations. The more you wager at the slots the more points you earn to play again.

I quietly tried to ask questions to a couple of the players most of whom avoided me. When I mentioned that I was a first time visitor a few gave me the low down on playing the slots. Bob and Mary told me that the odds favoured the "House"."What he seemed to win she lost including their initial stake.

Helen told me that she rushes to the slots with her pension check in her purse at the end of the month because she thought her chance of winning were better. She pondered that: "most of the women gambled because they are bored with their lives and yearn for the moment that they would win." Many came to play 4-5 times a week hoping to change their luck.

I found the people kind of sad. The word, addict, seems to be appropriate. The most vulnerable in our society mostly the poor pensioners pay to play.

The stats show that 800,000 Canadians, are problem gamblers. They often times have financial problems leading to bankruptcies. Mental health concerns including suicides, legal and marital problems may occur as a consequence of their addiction to gambling.

The most vulnerable in society often times seem to pay the price of feeding the slot machines. In my opinion Ontario doesnít need additional gambling emporiums to fund our budgets at the expense of the health of our people.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com