King’s Journalism’s six-part investigation finds that the Atlantic Lottery Corporation has failed to keep its previous promise of reducing the number of VLTs in the Atlantic region. The local government vowed to decrease VLT offerings and instead has just relocated them across provinces and updated them. All of which to keep revenue flowing into provincial coffers.
Back in 2011, the NDP government of Darrell Dexter stated that it will follow the example of the previous Conservative government of removing VLTs when a site hosting them closes down. The plan was to remove 200 VLTs by attrition in a short time. However, the current NDP government is taking its time and it pulled out 200 for over a decade.
Students of King’s College found copies of internal policies that suggest that the slow pace of removing VLTs is due to the way of proceedings by the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation. The policies show that closure of business is closely defined and, in many cases, VLTs can stop operating in one location and be relocated to another land-based location.
The found documents suggest several scenarios where an establishment can be permanently closed. For instance, if a business shuts down operations and sells its assets to another venue, then the latter can use them provided that it gets a license from the ALC. Or if a business is suspended while the owner looks for a buyer can remain closed for up to a year or longer. This provision was introduced in a revision of the attrition policies four years ago.
As the Crown allows businesses to shut down temporarily until a buyer is found, the VLTs can become a selling point, an additional revenue stream. King’s College students had discussions with numerous business owners who previously operated VLTs and the broad opinion was that the gaming machines make a business much more enticing if it is listed for sale.
According to the Crown and its attrition protocols, 20 to 25 VLT locations changed hands every year. However, spokesperson Jillian Moore commented that the number is outdated, and the current one is only six. The Crown also shared that six commercial venues voluntarily gave away their 20 VLTs between 2010 and 2020. However, they are relocated due to policies that state that a business could be temporarily closed down.
VLTs Keep Coming In
However, despite the policy of reducing the number of VLT machines in the Atlantic region, this April the Crown corporation announced International Game Technology. Through this agreement, the latter’s subsidiary IGT Canada Solutions ULC will deliver 1,375 CrystalDual® 27 cabinets for the Crown to deploy across its retail locations in the four provinces. They should be supplied by the end of the year.
Recently, the ALC has been criticized by Prince Edward Island’s Darren Noonan who presented findings from a follow-up report on its operations at a standing committee in Charlottetown. The report suggests that the Crown’s pension deficit plan has resulted in over CA$11 million in unclaimed revenue for the province.
Source: “‘We’ve essentially become addicted to the revenue’: Why it’s so hard to get rid of VLTs”, SaltWire, June 7, 2022