Amended NDP bill on VLTs passes

Dave Bartlett
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Opposition parties support original motion, vote against amended one

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael says government amendments to her private member's bill on video lottery terminals (VLTs) covers up the real issue with "bafflegab and spin."

Michael introduced the motion in the House of Assembly Wednesday asking the government to increase funding to help problem gamblers and come up with a new plan for the "accelerated reduction" and ultimately the elimination of VLTs in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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NDP Leader Lorraine Michael says government amendments to her private member's bill on video lottery terminals (VLTs) covers up the real issue with "bafflegab and spin."

Michael introduced the motion in the House of Assembly Wednesday asking the government to increase funding to help problem gamblers and come up with a new plan for the "accelerated reduction" and ultimately the elimination of VLTs in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Finance Minister Tom Marshall spoke to Michael's motion first.

He said the government has to balance views on all sides of the VLT debate.

Marshall said while some give impassioned pleas about the dangers of the machines - from financial ruin to suicide - bar owners complain about the impact on their businesses, and others who enjoy gambling say the government shouldn't tell them what they can and cannot do.

He also said the province uses the money collected from VLTs - about $75 million a year - to help pay for important social programs.

And he said people with gambling addictions will turn to other, unregulated and possibly illegal forms of gambling if VLTs are banned.

Marshall then presented figures showing the current VLT reduction strategy has taken out of service 26 per cent of the approximately 2,700 machines operating in 2006. That's more than its original commitment of a 15 per cent reduction.

The minister noted a number of other restrictions the province has placed on the machines since 2005.

He then introduced amendments to Michael's motion to replace "increase funding" with "continue enhanced programming."

Marshall also removed the clause asking for faster reduction and elimination of VLTs to read that the government come up with a plan to address gambling addiction in general.

Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones then spoke to the amended motion.

"No one has a problem recognizing the efforts that have been made to reduce the numbers of VLTs in the province," she said.

But she said the government amendments "pats themselves on the back for what they've done as opposed to developing a strategy on a go forward basis."

Michael was not impressed when she closed debate, declaring she would not vote for the amended motion.

"The amendment basically, has totally ... changed the focus of the (motion) I put on the floor," she said.

Michael said she was focusing on VLTs because of their "addictive nature."

While government members voted in favour and passedthe amended motion, both opposition parties, who supported the original motion, voted against it.

The issue of gambling also came up in question period before debate on Michael's bill began.

Jones asked if the government was onside with an Atlantic Lottery Corp. (ALC) proposal to bring online gambling to the four Atlantic provinces.

Marshall said preliminary discussions have taken place on the issue, but the government hasn't made a decision on whether to support it or not.

Michael asked about a report which states seven per cent of junior high and high school students play VLTs.

But Marshall said that's a matter for police, as VLTs are in bars where people under 19 aren't permitted.

He said he would bring that up with the RNC, RCMP and liquor inspectors.

Michael also asked the province to appoint someone to the board of ALC who can advise it on the addiction, health and safety aspects of gambling.

dbartlett@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Atlantic Lottery, RCMP

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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  • window dressing
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    The only vlt's removed were from those bars that had more than 5 vlts. Those bars split up their bars into 2 or more bars, adding a cooler and a cash register, hence giving the impression that there was more than one bar in the one building. Applications were freely given to many bars to split their bars into 2 or sometimes 3 bars. With the extra bar licence they could then apply for more vlts. The additional bars never did fully comply with the Liquor Act in regards to bathroom facilities, an extra bartender at the additional 'bars', as well as other requirements of the act. Maybe because it was ALC I guess many things were swept under the rug.

    The removal of the vlts from these sites was really only a correction to the mistake because these multi-site bars didn't really qualify to hold multiple bar licences in the first place. How a bar could have 5 vlts operating and no bartender overseeing their use is beyond everyone but the liquor inspectors responsible for enforcing the liquor control act.

    Something else should be done about all the vlts that either have the coin slots taped up or broken. ALC must only want people who put in 20's and not the players that want to bet a few quarters or a loonie or two. Perhaps ALC advocates betting in large amounts only. It sure seems that way.

    Somebody should also look into the way ALC presents their figures in their annual report. When it comes to scratch tickets and lottery tickets they state total sales less prize payouts to give a net revenue from these sources. When it comes to Vlts, they give only the net amount for revenue. Why don't they be consistant and state the total amount put into the machines less payouts to arrive at the net amount of revenue? Would the total figure put into these machines be so astronomical that they would rather not give that information?

  • Steve
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    I have done some checking on the Atlantic Lottery Corporation website. I have compiled the following statistics from their own report for 2009.

    These are the figures for monies received into the VLT machines in Atlantic Canada BEFORE expenses are removed.

    Newfoundland & Labrador$122,687,000
    Nova Scotia - $ 147,037,000
    New Brunswick - $ 148,171,000
    Prince Edward Island - $ 19,522,000

    What is even more interesting is when you factor in the population for each province as of 2009.

    Newfoundland & Labrador 508,944
    Nova Scotia - 938,183
    New Brunswick - 750,457
    Prince Edward Island - 140,402

    The following would be the per capita spending on VLT machines in each province.

    Yes, this would include every man, woman and child in each Province.

    Newfoundland & Labrador - $ 241.06
    Nova Scotia - $ 156.70
    New Brunswick - $ 197.44
    Prince Edward Island - $ 139.04

    If this doesnt make you think that we dont have a problem with VLT machines here in Newfoundland & Labrador I dont know what would?

  • Steve
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    The Provincial Government should remove all of these VLT terminals.

    The powers to be will always flash around numbers that it is a small percentage of the population that have issues with these machines. However if you factor in that a substantial portion of our population never use these machines, you can see that this causes even the - official - numbers to be actually much worse than they would want you to believe.

    I challenge anybody, the next time you are at a gathering with your friends bring up the topic of VLT machines. You will usually find that the vast majority of people never use these machine at all.

    The Provincial Government reports that they received 75 million in revenue from ALC. What does that translate into exactly how much money was put into the machines to generate that much revenue?

  • Jordan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    Yes lets get rid of VLTs, Alcohol, Cigarettes and Unhealthy Foods.

    It's funny that VLTs are probably the safest thing listed yet how many private member bills have been presnted to shut down McDonalds and KFC?

  • Frank
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    Let's get rid of all televisions next because some of the programming is not holsom...like Leave It To Beaver, My Three Sons, The Partridge Family et el. When the VLT's and televisions are all gone then Michael and Jones can start complaining about something else, such as non eco friendly toilets :)
    These two leaders are pathetic.

  • speedy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    Prephaps poor old Frank needs his machines more then the government needs opposition.

  • window dressing
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    The only vlt's removed were from those bars that had more than 5 vlts. Those bars split up their bars into 2 or more bars, adding a cooler and a cash register, hence giving the impression that there was more than one bar in the one building. Applications were freely given to many bars to split their bars into 2 or sometimes 3 bars. With the extra bar licence they could then apply for more vlts. The additional bars never did fully comply with the Liquor Act in regards to bathroom facilities, an extra bartender at the additional 'bars', as well as other requirements of the act. Maybe because it was ALC I guess many things were swept under the rug.

    The removal of the vlts from these sites was really only a correction to the mistake because these multi-site bars didn't really qualify to hold multiple bar licences in the first place. How a bar could have 5 vlts operating and no bartender overseeing their use is beyond everyone but the liquor inspectors responsible for enforcing the liquor control act.

    Something else should be done about all the vlts that either have the coin slots taped up or broken. ALC must only want people who put in 20's and not the players that want to bet a few quarters or a loonie or two. Perhaps ALC advocates betting in large amounts only. It sure seems that way.

    Somebody should also look into the way ALC presents their figures in their annual report. When it comes to scratch tickets and lottery tickets they state total sales less prize payouts to give a net revenue from these sources. When it comes to Vlts, they give only the net amount for revenue. Why don't they be consistant and state the total amount put into the machines less payouts to arrive at the net amount of revenue? Would the total figure put into these machines be so astronomical that they would rather not give that information?

  • Steve
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    I have done some checking on the Atlantic Lottery Corporation website. I have compiled the following statistics from their own report for 2009.

    These are the figures for monies received into the VLT machines in Atlantic Canada BEFORE expenses are removed.

    Newfoundland & Labrador$122,687,000
    Nova Scotia - $ 147,037,000
    New Brunswick - $ 148,171,000
    Prince Edward Island - $ 19,522,000

    What is even more interesting is when you factor in the population for each province as of 2009.

    Newfoundland & Labrador 508,944
    Nova Scotia - 938,183
    New Brunswick - 750,457
    Prince Edward Island - 140,402

    The following would be the per capita spending on VLT machines in each province.

    Yes, this would include every man, woman and child in each Province.

    Newfoundland & Labrador - $ 241.06
    Nova Scotia - $ 156.70
    New Brunswick - $ 197.44
    Prince Edward Island - $ 139.04

    If this doesnt make you think that we dont have a problem with VLT machines here in Newfoundland & Labrador I dont know what would?

  • Steve
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    The Provincial Government should remove all of these VLT terminals.

    The powers to be will always flash around numbers that it is a small percentage of the population that have issues with these machines. However if you factor in that a substantial portion of our population never use these machines, you can see that this causes even the - official - numbers to be actually much worse than they would want you to believe.

    I challenge anybody, the next time you are at a gathering with your friends bring up the topic of VLT machines. You will usually find that the vast majority of people never use these machine at all.

    The Provincial Government reports that they received 75 million in revenue from ALC. What does that translate into exactly how much money was put into the machines to generate that much revenue?

  • Jordan
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    Yes lets get rid of VLTs, Alcohol, Cigarettes and Unhealthy Foods.

    It's funny that VLTs are probably the safest thing listed yet how many private member bills have been presnted to shut down McDonalds and KFC?

  • Frank
    July 01, 2010 - 20:01

    Let's get rid of all televisions next because some of the programming is not holsom...like Leave It To Beaver, My Three Sons, The Partridge Family et el. When the VLT's and televisions are all gone then Michael and Jones can start complaining about something else, such as non eco friendly toilets :)
    These two leaders are pathetic.

  • speedy
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    Prephaps poor old Frank needs his machines more then the government needs opposition.