NS gambling strategy not a sure bet

The Nova Scotia government has released a new gaming strategy to promote responsible gambling habits.

Michael Noonan, the communications director for the Department of Community, Culture and Heritage says a major part of the strategy is to reduce the number of Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) in the province.

By Olivia Schneider

Andrew Forbes plays online poker five to six times a week (Olivia Schneider photo).

The Nova Scotia government has released a new gaming strategy to promote responsible gambling habits.

Michael Noonan, the communications director for the Department of Community, Culture and Heritage says a major part of the strategy is to reduce the number of Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) in the province.

“It’s a very slow process,” Noonan says, because all existing machines will remain in their current locations, unless the establishment asks for their removal.

The province will not add new VLTs.

Halifax resident and gambler Andrew Forbes says he has tried almost every form of gambling and poker is his favourite. He sees “massive risks” for VLT abuse because they can attract people that aren’t usually gamblers or aren’t willing to admit they are.

“VLTs are in a lot of bars. You think you’re just walking into a bar, you’re not thinking that you’re walking into a casino,” he says.

Another aspect of the strategy is the My Play system, which requires VLT users to create monetary or time limits for themselves. This will be made mandatory in 2012 for anyone wanting to access VLTs.

Communications director for GameOverVLTs.com, Debbie Langille, says this is not enough.

VLTs are “the crack cocaine of gambling,” she says.

“They’re asking a VLT addict to control their own addiction and that’s impossible.”

Forbes says the My Play system may help some people, but he thinks the program doesn’t make Nova Scotia appear responsible.

“By implementing My Play, it’s accepting VLTs as part of society,” he says, “and that shouldn’t be the norm.”

Although the province will not be allowing new VLT machines, it is still approving new games. Six new games were created in the past year according to the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation’s 2009-2010 annual report.

The report says this provides, “a fresh entertaining playing experience.”

Langille is happy about some parts of the strategy. She commends the government for saying no to online gambling and the racino, a venue that combines a horse racing track and casino.

“It’s just window dressing. It all looks nice,” she says, commenting on the fact that the strategy leaves many questions unanswered.

A change she’d like to see is confining all VLTs to casinos.

Langille and Forbes agree that it may be unrealistic to remove all VLTs from Nova Scotia.

Listen to Andrew Forbes’s take on the desire to keep playing.

Andrew Forbes- odds of winning