Industry Reports

Nova Scotia Taxpayers to Pay for Experts’ Expenses in the Latest Hearing on Proposed Gambling Ban Amendment

Nova Scotia taxpayers seem to be the ones who will pay for the expenses made for the remuneration of the three experts to testify in favor of the government’s gambling bill which is set to ensure a more relaxed regime for a program under which compulsive gamblers would get a permanent ban from casinos.

Yesterday, a spokesman for the Crown corporation revealed that Nova Scotia Gaming Corp. expected to pay approximately CA$7,500 the three individuals in order to cover their travel costs. The experts which were brought to back the proposed gambling bill are the Responsible Gambling Council’s Director of standards and accreditation, Sue Birge, the Council’s former Chief Executive Officer Jon Kelly and the Council’s former Director of research and development Jamie Wiebe.

The three experts appeared before the Law amendments committee of the province yesterday. They were needed to testify in terms of the changes brought to the Voluntary Exclusion Program which the Government of Premier Stephen McNeil had previously proposed. However, as revealed by CBC News, the experts did not inform the committee members that they were specially invited by Nova Scotia Gaming Corp. and that their expenses were supposed to be paid by the corporation, which is currently responsible for regulating the gaming industry of the province.

Opposition Says Problem Gamblers Will be Lured Back to Casinos

Chris d’Entremont, an opposition Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), however, said it would be wrong to make local taxpayers pay for the expenses made by the gaming corporation to bring experts in support of the proposed bill. The New Democrat MLA Lenore Zann shared his opinion. What is more, she explained that the proposed bill seems to be designed in a way that would bring gambling addicts back into casinos. Ms. Zann said that her biggest concern related to the measure is that casino operators would make money in case the piece of legislation is given the green light.

Under the ongoing program, problem gamblers who ask to be suspended from Halifax and Sydney casinos get a lifetime ban from entering such venues. In order for such a ban to be lifted, the applicant needs to go through a thorough investigation into their personal and financial affairs, followed by a hearing before the Utility and Review Board of Nova Scotia.

The Provincial Government’s proposed bill was introduced in August by the Finance Minister Karen Casey. Under the proposal, shorter bans would be implemented so that the long and tough procedure to lift the ban becomes unnecessary. According to media reports, after introducing the bill to local legislators, Ms. Casey revealed that the Responsible Gambling Council had made a recommendation which motivated the Nova Scotia Government to consider an amendment of the rules.