I Made a Searchable Database of Comments from Toronto's Casino Survey

Example: “My mother lost $1 million+ to a gambling addiction after my father's death.”

Jun 11 2013, 8:30pm

The No Casino Toronto logo, from their Facebook page, that has over 16,000 fans.

After an online survey was conducted in January to gauge the public's views on a Toronto casino, as part of a process that cost taxpayers $370,000, the results show that most Torontonians never wanted a casino in the first place. In fact, over 70 percent of the 18,000 Torontonians who responded to the online survey opposed the building of a casino in the city's downtown core.

$370,000 is a big number (apparently that’s what it costs to debate the existence of a hypothetical casino in Canada’s largest city for 14 months) that was only revealed yesterday following a formal inquiry by Councillor Mary Fragedakis.

City manager Joe Pennachetti unveiled the $370,000 figure on Monday in a letter to council. This figure did not include the cost of the hours that dozens of city employees devoted to the casino file – costs which would have increased the total significantly.

Of the $370,000, $313,000 went to consultants: $135,000 to Ernst and Young for a study; $155,000 to DPRA to assist with the public consultation process including the online survey; and $22,000 to Environics for a poll on the issue.

Considering the overwhelming negative reaction by the public to the casino plans, the cost of these discussions—which just reaffirmed what many already knew—only serves to rub salt into this fiscal wound.

So, I decided that it was only right that considering the survey cost the Toronto taxpayer thousands of dollars, they should be made aware of, and have access to, the collected data in the form of a searchable database.

How did I do this? Well, getting the raw data was the easy part.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to submit any time-sapping Freedom of Information requests to the City of Toronto—the survey data was published as an Excel spreadsheet as part of the City’s Open Data catalogue.

But most Torontonians wouldn’t have known about this wonderful resource—until now.

I downloaded the large spreadsheet that had over 1.2 million cells of data to sift through.

The data within corresponds to responses given by the public to 11 questions concerning the casino. I decided to only use answers given to the first two-part question in the survey, namely “Please indicate on the scale below how you feel about having a new casino in Toronto” and “What are your main reasons for this rating?”

Respondents could enter up to three reasons for their feelings towards the casino—and this explains why there are over 40,000 comments in the database from 18,000 respondents.

With 70% of Torontonians in opposition to the casino, there are a ton of angry comments in here. Some of the more notable ones include:

“I know what happens to cities who fall for this shit statistically.”

“A casino is just making money off peoples addictions, It is no different then selling drugs.”

You're asking for the mafia to get deeper roots in this city”

“crappy jobs (pardon the pun), rather than high skill jobs”

“my mother lost 1 million dollars+ to a gambling addiction after my fathers death”

But anyway, to complete the database I deleted the extraneous columns of data and uploaded them as a new online spreadsheet on Google Drive. Using Google’s Visualization API and PHPI created a basic form that queries this Google document.

Easy, right?

Using a pivot table within the spreadsheet I also uncovered some telling statistics:

12,654 - or 71 percent - of respondents opposed a casino in downtown Toronto

12,179 - or 69 percent - of respondents felt a casino did not fit their image of Toronto

So for the first time, you can search the database of these online survey comments below, and see what Torontonians had to say about the casino.

Manually enter a search phrase like "small business", "crime," or "gambling" in the text field to search the database.

Unsure what to search for? Use the Rob Ford shaped word cloud above for tips.

As you’ll see the overwhelming response was a resounding (casi)no – it’s just a shame most taxpayers had to pay for something they already knew.


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