Last bastion of VLT control falls to parity

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Video lottery terminal

Decision will generate more money but problem gamblers will pay price

The province continues its inexorable march to gambling parity and while government coffers will be replenished, the problem gambler is being dismissed as mere collateral damage. Such is the fallout from the province’s recent decision to allow all video lottery terminals (VLTs) to operate on Sundays across P.E.I.

Prior to a recent cabinet decision, VLTs could only be operated on Sundays at the Red Shores casinos in Charlottetown and Summerside while all other terminals were closed down on the Sabbath.

Finance Minister Wes Sheridan grudgingly admits the decision will boost the province’s revenues, but insists the main reason was to level the playing field for all licensed premises on P.E.I. Those VLT operators had lobbied the province for relief. It’s true there was a degree of discrimination by shutting private operators out of lucrative Sundays, which could easily have been rectified by shutting down all VLTs venues on Sundays. That would at least give the problem gambler a day of rest.

Mr. Sheridan argues that operating VLTs on Sundays is the norm in the region and across the country. It’s also the norm to index basic personal exemptions but P.E.I. is refusing to join the crowd on that one. And there are other examples that quickly come to mind so P.E.I. has already exhibited an independent streak when it’s fiscally or politically expedient to do so.

The enhanced profits for the private operators, and the extra cash for government, will come at the expense of gamblers, primarily those with addiction issues.

UPEI professor Peter McKenna calls VLTs the “crack cocaine of gambling.” If any gambling is to be curtailed, it must be VLTs, argues Prof. McKenna. Or at least enhance the support and help for problem gamblers. He says government is in a conflict of interest by generating revenues from gambling while also being responsible for regulating the gaming industry. The extension of Sunday VLTs hours fools no one. Prof. McKenna says government just wants to tap into additional revenues.

How is government enhancing assistance for problem gamblers who are often in the grips of mental health issues, broken marriages, financial ruin and even suicide, which can be linked to problem gambling, associated with these machines?

Mr. Sheridan says measures have been taken to help, including new features installed on VLTs that remind players how long they may have been playing and how much money they have spent. Those kind of smart cards have just been removed in Nova Scotia where they haven proven costly and ineffective.

Adding VLTs into a wider mix is only going to increase addiction issues. Any other excuse is indeed political spin.

Great George deserves honour

It would be a deserving accomplishment if Great George Street in downtown Charlottetown can win its category in this year’s Great Places in Canada contest. The Canadian Institute of Planners hosts the competition involving three different categories, including great streets, neighbourhoods and public spaces.

Great George, from a purely historical point of view, is a great nomination this year. It was 150 years ago that the Fathers of Confederation strolled up Great George Street to the Colonial Building (Province House) to begin talks Sept. 1, 1864, that led to the creation of the Dominion of Canada. History aside, it remains a very old-fashioned, unique street, with historic buildings and architectural marvels adorning both sides of the five blocks from Confederation Landing Park up to Richmond Street, highlighted by Province House, St. Dunstan’s Basilica, the former Bishop’s Palace and the Inns on Great George. The only blight is the leased parking lot once occupied by Queens Square School.  

Organizations: Province House, Canadian Institute of Planners, Dominion Queens Square School

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Summerside, Great George Street Canada Nova Scotia Confederation Landing Park Richmond Street

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  • ARNIE WEXLER
    August 23, 2014 - 14:21

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  • stupid voter
    August 22, 2014 - 18:47

    i voted for ghiz

  • paula
    August 22, 2014 - 16:55

    If Ghiz is so eager to level the playing field, how about letting the grocery stores sell NON alcoholic beer in cans?? The only Province in Canada denying the consumers this right of products. No - instead they are eager go gouge and punish Islanders who do not drink alcohol These disgusting hypocrites this gang.

    • hmm
      August 23, 2014 - 12:54

      That's a lot of anger over canned non-alcoholic beer. You might be in need of a shot of the real thing.

    • An idea
      August 23, 2014 - 17:38

      I have an idea. Quit whining in EVERY story about not being able to buy non-alcoholic beer at the Superstore. NO ONE CARES. Whatever mental hang up you have that keeps you posting this garbage you should have it checked. Get some therapy.

  • Peter Johnsson
    August 22, 2014 - 15:32

    Michael C: While I agree with your comment, I must say that this (being both beneficiary and regulator at the same time) isn't out of the ordinary for Ghiz/Sheridan. Remember who benefited and regulated the 400 Million PNP that they won't tell us about?

  • nitpicker
    August 22, 2014 - 14:23

    If PEI previously had VLT access 7 days per week, and, in an attempt to help problem gamblers, the government decided to ban it on Sundays, what would you say? Would you say that it was a positive step, certain to help those who need it, or would you say it was an insignificant move? Would the crack addict be helped if the drug were unavailable on Sundays? No. If the Guardian is concerned for problem gamblers, their stance should be on gambling as a whole and not be taking some silly (problem gamblers mere collateral damage?) stance on Sunday VLT access.

  • Michael C
    August 22, 2014 - 13:09

    Thank you Professor McKenna for pointing out something I have been saying for quite some time. That is, this Government is in a conflict of interest when it comes to its involvement of gambling on PEI. You can't be both the beneficiary and regulator at the same time. I have no problem with gambling, but it must be regulated. Also, I believe there should be an annual audit done and reported to the House.

  • ruby
    August 22, 2014 - 12:22

    good to see the Guardian condemn the Ghiz Gov . for a change --- and about time. This VLT business is disgusting, and Wes is as usual dishonest in his explanation, it is the money, which of course conveniently satisfies the greed of the VLT operators, doubtless liberal friends that needs to be 'looked after'. Dreadful circumstances we have gotten ourselves into with this Ghiz government. Ghiz is not in charge, never has been, -- forces beyond his and our control, has us at their mercy.---

  • Donald
    August 22, 2014 - 12:02

    Raising the prices at private liquor outlets also "levels the playing field".

  • Donald
    August 22, 2014 - 12:01

    Raising the prices at private liquor outlets also "levels the playing field".