It adds up

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It’s a sobering thought — and that’s strange given that it takes place inside this province’s bars and licenced establishments.

It doesn’t matter what sort of bar it is: shabby, down-at-the-heels, smelling of last week’s beer and stale washrooms, or trendy and bright. If it’s got video lottery terminals (VLTs), it’s taking in hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, and turning a chunk of that money over to the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) in profits.

The Telegram obtained internal documentation from five lottery machines in two different bars that shows the phenomenal amount of money the machines rake in, and the more than 20 per cent profit the machines grab for the ALC.

So, let’s look at the numbers: on an annual basis, one lottery machine of the five we were able to sample would take in $732,000 in cash.

That is some 36,600 $20 bills per year.

Now, things get a little complex. The old paper $20 bill is 115 microns thick. The new polymer note, 91 microns.

We’re talking big numbers here: there are 1,000 microns in a millimetre, and 1,000 millimetres in a metre.

That means a pile of 36,600 $20 bills is somewhere between 3.3 metres (all polymer) and 4.2 metres (all paper) high.

Now, let’s talk Class A office space — the kind of office space the City of St. John’s is always saying we need to build so much more of.

Stay with us here.

The minimum ceiling height for a Class A office is 2.7 metres, meaning you could take the $20 bills going into that one single machine in a year and pile them from floor to ceiling in one office and, upstairs on the next floor, have another pile of twenties that would be above your knees and maybe as high as your shoulder, depending on the twenties involved.

Not a bad take for a single machine in a dark little corner of the neighbourhood boozer.

Then, there’s the profits.

A machine that takes in $732,000 in bills turns over roughly $164,400 in profits to the Atlantic Lottery Corporation in a year — or a column of $20 bills 0.75 metres high (we’ll use the new ones this time).

There are 2,000 VLTs in the province, meaning that (if they all took in similar amounts per machine), taking the profits alone and stacking them up in a column of $20 bills, you’d have a pile of twenties some

1.5 kilometres high.

Confederation Building, just for comparison’s sake, is 64 metres high.

So, a column of 23 piles of $20 bills the height of the Confederation Building would just about sum up the money taken in profits. (Oh, and you’d still have 28 metres of twenties left over.)

All of that money taken out of pockets, out of stores, out of rent cheques, out of the economy. All of it collected by technology specifically designed by specialists in human psychology to wring money out of humans as quickly, effectively (and, let’s face it, addictively) as it can be made to be.

The sheer scale of the money involved is staggering.

Not so incidentally, so is the scale of the potential heartbreak.

Organizations: Atlantic Lottery Corporation, Confederation Building

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Recent comments

  • Pierre Neary
    March 27, 2014 - 18:01

    Great editorial. Totally agree.

  • Chris Chaisson
    March 27, 2014 - 09:59

    This article was a waste of valuable news paper space. No one cares about how high the pile of money for lottery terminals stack up. There are so many other important points that could have been addressed in this article. How much money do Businesses make off a single terminal? It also makes it sound like ALCis some terrible organization. Meanwhile all the profits from these machines go back into our community. If you were to take these machines out of bars a lot would end up closing, hundreds of thousands of dollars would be taken out of local community projects, meaning thousands of jobs lost. It would destroy the Newfoundland economy. People who spend their entire pay-checks on the video lottery terminals should be offered therapy for their addiction. If you take away the lottery terminals they'll find another way to gamble away their money. Taking them away no matter how you look at it will cause more problems then good.

  • Too Funny
    March 27, 2014 - 09:09

    "All of that money taken out of pockets, out of stores, out of rent cheques, out of the economy." Oh, I didn't know that the ALC was burning that money. You forgot to say how that money was also coming out liquor and drug purchases. I wonder if the new found morality at the Telegram will mean an end to publishing the names of lottery winners or advertising lotteries.

    • saelcove
      March 27, 2014 - 11:01

      Booze does more damage than all vlt and drugs combined

  • Cashin Delaney
    March 27, 2014 - 08:56

    If the nanny state wasn't backing the machines, business owners would be free to explore all entertainment based on merit and technology, at least give smart poor people a chance to win, and stupid poor people, interfacing with the ALC matrix, to be rightly harvested of their polymer bio survival tickets. Get rid of parochial government. Let them darts....better cardio.....

  • Gekko
    March 27, 2014 - 07:43

    Cry me a river. All your facts and figures suggest to me is that there is a still a far greater demand for these machines that isn't yet being exploited. We should have more of them, not less, and a business owner should be able to put as many of them in his establishment as he wants without any interference and do-gooodery from the nanny state.

    • sailorjacko
      March 27, 2014 - 10:15

      Gekko, what uncaring, profit at any cost rock did you crawl out from? Do yourself and society a favour, get back on your quad and destroy some.bog somewhere.