Nova Scotia government questioned over budget estimates for VLT revenue – CP

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Nova Scotia government questioned over budget estimates for VLT revenue – CP

by ahnationtalk on April 21, 2016267 Views

Source: The Canadian Press
Apr 20, 2016 

By Keith Doucette

THE CANADIAN PRESS

HALIFAX _ Nova Scotia’s opposition parties are raising “moral concerns” that problem gamblers are driving an increase in gambling revenues, putting the provincial government on the defensive for scrapping a program intended to curb excessive video lottery terminal use.

Opposition parties questioned the government’s commitment to responsible gambling in the legislature Wednesday after this week’s provincial budget estimated overall revenue for the provincial lottery corporation would increase by $34.8 million in 2016-17 compared to the previous year’s estimate.

The increase is largely driven by an estimated $27.1 million jump in video lottery terminal revenue over last year, according to the business plan submitted by the Nova Scotia Provincial Lotteries and Casino Corporation as part of Tuesday’s budget.

The corporation estimated $144.6 million in VLT revenue _ up from $117.5 million last year.

“There are moral concerns that these revenues could come from problem gamblers,” NDP leader in the house Marian Mancini told the legislature.

“My question for the premier: does he have any moral objections to the dramatic increase in VLT revenues?”

Premier Stephen McNeil said the increase was related to the government’s decision in 2014 to eliminate My-Play, a program that was intended to reduce excessive VLT gambling.

McNeil said that was done because the system simply didn’t work.

“With the reduction in the My-Play we are seeing recreational use of VLTs going up,” said McNeil. “We’re still below the highs of revenue when it came to the use of VLTs…and we continue to work with organizations when it comes to problem gambling.”

Under the My-Play system, people inserted cards into VLTs to set voluntary spending and time limits.

When the government scrapped the system it said only a small percentage of players were using real-time and historical limits and many problem gamblers were using more cards in a single session.

The government also said it was faced with having to spend $1 million to upgrade a system that cost about $4.5 million a year to operate.

At the time the minister responsible for Part 1 of the Gaming Control Act was Andrew Younger, who now sits as an Independent member of the legislature.

On Wednesday, Younger asked current minister Michel Samson why VLT revenues were expected to increase in Nova Scotia when they are expected to fall in many other jurisdictions in the country.

Samson said that aside from the removal of My-Play, new VLT machines were brought in after complaints of problems with some of the older machines by users and business owners.

“One of the reasons why we are seeing more participation is because of the refreshing of those terminals,” Samson said.

There are responsible gambling programs run through the Nova Scotia Provincial Lotteries and Casino Corporation.

According to the documents, the corporation is budgeting $7.4 million for those programs in 2016-17, an increase over last year’s estimate of $6.9 million.

INDEX: SOCIAL ATLANTIC POLITICS

 

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