P.E.I. lifts ban on Sunday VLTs

Teresa Wright
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Finance Minister Wes Sheridan says removing a Sunday VLT ban is in line with the other Atlantic provinces.

Gamblers in Prince Edward Island who like to use video lottery terminals can now play anywhere in the province on Sundays.

Previously, VLTs could only be operated on Sundays at the Red Shores casinos in Charlottetown and Summerside.

All other machines across the Island were dark on Sundays.

But in July, cabinet approved a lift to this ban — a move Finance Minister Wes Sheridan says was done to level the playing field for licensed premises on P.E.I. that host VLTs.

“It is the norm across the country, and all three of our other Atlantic provinces do have VLT gaming seven days a week at all their locations,” said Sheridan, who is responsible for the P.E.I. Lotteries Commission.

“A number of our locations were asking for it to be lifted and allow them to play on the same playing field as the other Atlantic provinces and wanted to make sure they had the same ability to make the same profits that their competitors do.”

UPEI professor Peter McKenna has written several books on the darker side video lottery terminals, calling them the “crack cocaine of gambling”.

He has long raised concerns over governments generating revenues from gambling while also being responsible for regulating the gaming industry.

McKenna believes this extension of VLT gaming hours is nothing more than an attempt by the P.E.I. government to garner more revenues from the lottery machines.

“I think it’s pretty clear that the reason why the accessibility is being expanded is precisely because they want to tap into additional revenues,” McKenna said.

His books have chronicled some of the devastating effects VLT gambling can have on those who become addicted and their families.

Mental health issues, broken marriages, financial ruin and even suicide can be linked to problem gambling associated with these machines, McKenna said.

“I would have concern over what the impact of expanding the access to these machines would have in terms of addiction,” he said.

“It’s already creating havoc with families. I don’t see how expanding people’s accessibility to these machines is going to do anything but exacerbate or compound that problem.”

But Sheridan says measures have been taken to try to mitigate this issue, including new features installed on VLTs that remind players how long they may have been playing and how much money they have spent.

VLT addiction is an issue government is always concerned about, but only a fraction of those who use the machines become problem gamblers, Sheridan said.

“We didn’t want to impact those that game responsibly by limiting this play on Sunday,” he said.

“In the end, we decided that was the best thing to do, to level the playing field to allow the vast majority of people that do game for fun that ability to play.”

McKenna called this explanation “political spin”.

“I think when you scratch and drill down and unpack this, it’s really all about the money,” he said.

“We know that these machines are dangerous, we know that they’re destructive, we know they’re highly addictive, so anytime a provincial government tries to expand hours or increase access, to me that’s a step backward and a huge mistake.”

The only days VLT play is now prohibited in P.E.I. are Christmas Day, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

Organizations: P.E.I. Lotteries Commission

Geographic location: P.E.I., Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown Summerside

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Recent comments

  • interested
    August 22, 2014 - 22:13

    to huh - Tell me what are the illogical arguments being made which are so astounding ---- I do not work again until Monday so I have lots of time to read your response. You can copy your reply directly to WES so he will have the correct answers when questioned. He needs all the ""free advice"" you can give him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

  • Peter Johnsson
    August 22, 2014 - 15:17

    to Shylock/Hamid: It may appear that these are religious holidays, but in fact they're Canadian holidays. I don't agree with Sheridan on much of anything (based on his past performances and deceitfulness), but I do agree on these holidays. It does surprise me though, that he would even include them ... means a few days he won't get any money. I'd wager though (so long as he doesn't get any of it), that he has something else planned to make up for the loss of three days revenue.

  • huh
    August 22, 2014 - 09:34

    Holy geez, the hysterics over VLT access on a Sunday. I get that some folks thrive on trashing the government, but the illogical arguments being made are astounding.

    • reality
      August 22, 2014 - 11:48

      thank you Mr Ghiz

  • reality
    August 22, 2014 - 07:34

    last word on this: Ghiz should go, ---out with you ----- go, go, go

  • interested
    August 21, 2014 - 19:27

    Well that casino should be open EVERY day of the year just for the government to reap in more money to give to themselves. Go Wes !!!

  • Observer
    August 21, 2014 - 17:58

    Another flip flop by Wes and his very inept and incompetent Liberals. I honestly believe that he really believes what he is saying is the truth!!!

  • Quiet Observer
    August 21, 2014 - 13:26

    Everyone complains about Ghiz, Wes and the boys, but you know what? They'll get re-elected again next time around.

  • Michael C
    August 21, 2014 - 11:39

    I have stated this the past and feel it should be stated again. Personally, I wish the Government would be more of a regulatory body when it comes to gambling on PEI. The fact that they both make money of gambling and are suppose to enforce regulations on gambling is nothing short of a conflict of interest. There needs to be a regulatory body put in place to assure the gambling public that gambling is being done on the up and up. Also, I would like to see regular audits done to point out how much money is made and where does it actual go.

    • johnny
      August 22, 2014 - 13:28

      The government has no business regulating VLT's and gambling in general. They should remove themselves from the gambling business altogether. If people choose to gamble that is their decision, no matter how self-destructive and wasteful it is. Why does the government need to be involved in gambling? People on the Island are way to dependant on government. It's disgusting how pathetic Islanders are. Take responsibility for your own actions and stop looking to government to regulate our lives!

  • Openheim
    August 21, 2014 - 11:17

    I have never in all my 82 years seen such dissatisfaction with a government, nor have I seen ever such an irresponsible, victimization of the Island people as is being done by this Ghiz group. The man himself surfaces only when there is glory to be garnered, e.g. a horse that wins a race. He is otherwise clueless it seems and should resign, - the fish are being killed, industries are leaving the Island, and what does his man Wes come out with, -- extending gambling hours . This is not leadership, Ghiz and the Island would be better off if he gracefully resigned.

    • @ Openheim
      August 22, 2014 - 07:54

      Yes. You have nailed it. Well said.

  • Aongasha
    August 21, 2014 - 10:19

    Darn right they need revenue. Despite what reports say Old Home Week crowds were down and the lowered admission price meant a smaller take their. The bet at the track was also down according to all reports - as much as $30,000 on the Gold Cup and Saucer night. This comes after Wes raised the purses, gave the GC&S another $25,000 and of course helped build new million dollar stables at the CDP. So yeah, I'd guess the certainly do need new revenues and fast!

    • nitpicker
      August 22, 2014 - 09:44

      Would love to know the source of your information. Despite what reports say, OHW attendance was down? Says who? But then, according to you, the reports are CORRECT when it comes to the bet Gold Cup night, which was down (actually reports say the bet was 273K, which is consistent with previous years). Funny how the validity of all the "reports" varies, depending, I assume, on whether they coincide with your opinion.

  • mike
    August 21, 2014 - 10:05

    not sure why anyone cares or why this is a big deal. The government has finally allowed business owners to do what government corporation have been doing for years. ALC is owned by the government and guess what they have been running VLT's at redshores for years. Now the government is saying hey we have been doing it for years now I guess well let business owners do the same. Typical government and double standards. How many times have you seen the government put something down or say your not allowed to do it but then they do it. My personal thought is they are being less douche and allowing people do what they have been doing for years. But I still think that the government has a long way to go.

  • Augustine
    August 21, 2014 - 09:54

    Interesting comments here, - and some the Government should take seriously. This policy cannot but be in contravention of human rights. Singling out one religion in a country of religious freedom, is playing with fire. It is time the religious leaders speak out, especially those of the Christian faith, whom Mr. Wes is obviously catering to by those days to which he applies the gambling exemption. I would think the Newcomers Association would be a voice for religions of their clients . This is bad and discriminatory policy Mr. Wes, you have to go beyond the people YOU meet in church on Sunday.

  • voter
    August 21, 2014 - 09:32

    GREED ----------------HATEFUL ----DISRESPECTFUL-------------- the liberals at their best and watch the conservatives or ndp not do a thing except collect the extra money when its their turn at the TROUGH

    • Well....
      August 21, 2014 - 11:17

      Well why don't you stop whining and run for office then?

    • voter
      August 21, 2014 - 13:55

      TO "WELL" sorry politics are beneath me

  • Kevin
    August 21, 2014 - 09:05

    Great Wes, I am saving the bridge toll every Sunday, it runs up you know--- thanks for helping me out, - the wife and kids thanks you too, it was a lot of time on the road, getting to Moncton.

    • buckwheat
      August 21, 2014 - 14:13

      Are you paying bridge fee every Sunday? Why You could have played the VLT'S in Charlottetown or Summerside every Sunday and not take the Confederation Bridge. Not very smart!!!!!

  • alana
    August 21, 2014 - 09:00

    The Ghiz government respecting major Christian religious holidays is absolutely laudable. But how about going one step further and prudently install the image of the patron saint of gambling on all the machines?

    • Allan
      August 21, 2014 - 13:38

      @ alana... What, a statue of Daniel Negranu? :)

  • Quit Whining
    August 21, 2014 - 08:54

    I really wish people would quit whining. Who cares if they allow it on a Sunday. It's about damn time we stopped treating Sunday differently than any other day of the week.

    • don
      August 21, 2014 - 09:09

      You're whining about the whining,so who are you kiddin'?

  • MFH
    August 21, 2014 - 08:54

    It's a move to get more revenue and nothing else.

  • Human Rights advocate
    August 21, 2014 - 08:54

    To be fair and equitable in a diverse society the Government should extend the gambling ban to the following : Lent, Advent, Ramadan, Yom Kippur, Pass over, and the High Holidays, Hindu Festival of Lights and for the Wiccans every full moon. The Government need to consult a religious experts to be sure to apply inclusiveness, as the above list is not exhaustive.

    • To be fair...
      August 21, 2014 - 09:14

      To be fair and equitable NO religious events should be recognized by government.

    • voter
      August 21, 2014 - 15:25

      Life is not fair -- religion is a part of island culture - when in rome do as the romans do

    • And.........
      August 21, 2014 - 18:59

      Illiteracy and alcoholism are part of Island culture too. We should address those before we pander to the wackos who believe in fairy tales.

    • voter
      August 22, 2014 - 06:38

      TO "AND"- THANK YOU for bringing extra attention to my comment -- illiteracy and alcoholism are part of many cultures -religion is a very important positive influence on the island -- illiteracy and alcoholism are useless- much like gambling

  • L Elsie
    August 21, 2014 - 08:45

    Gotta keep that addiction - related revenue flowing ..... gambling, booze, cigarettes receive priority attention regardless of any damaging social costs.

  • Shylock/Hamid
    August 21, 2014 - 08:42

    What is this? - In a province priding itself on diversity, tolerance and inclusiveness, how can this schedule for gambling be instituted by this Government. Forbidding of gambling only on Christian holidays is discriminatory in the highest degree. We request that the Minister re-examine this policy to comply with ALL religious holidays as they apply to ALL Islanders. In full respect.

  • tina
    August 21, 2014 - 08:28

    What a bunch of crap, as usual, coming from Wes, the master of level playing fields (remember HST). In other words they are bending to any wish coming from special interest groups (money makers/liberal friends) regardless of the consequences for addicted individuals and helpless families. This Ghiz government is ruthless, callous and cruel to vulnerable individuals in our society. What will take for Islanders to wake up and vote for an other set of values than these people apparently adhere to?. replacement

  • alfred
    August 21, 2014 - 08:17

    I agree, why not go full go full hog, - 365 days a year, - this government should not hold back, when it comes to creating misery and chaos in Island families. they are so good at it. Ghiz/Sheridan have a lot to answer for, so fellow citizens, let us help each other to rid ourselves of this miserable bunch as soon as we can.

  • don
    August 21, 2014 - 07:10

    well the long lost man. just getting back from your vacation? now i guess you need money so you lift the ban on vlt's. next you will allow it 365 days of the year just think wes more money for your rich liberal friends. by the way wes how is OUR money yes tax payers money NOT yours the 4 million plus your donated to alc for he last dumb game ?

  • Peter Johnsson
    August 21, 2014 - 07:04

    McKenna believes this extension of VLT gaming hours is nothing more than an attempt by the P.E.I. government to garner more revenues from the lottery machines. “I think it’s pretty clear that the reason why the accessibility is being expanded is precisely because they want to tap into additional revenues,” McKenna said. I agree with the Prof. 100%. Speaking only for myself, while I believe there are others that share my delight, I quit smoking and started screwing Sheridan out of more than $3000.00 per year ... He has to get it somewhere! (big smile).

  • so sad
    August 21, 2014 - 07:01

    I think our government has revenue addiction.But like most addictions here there is very little help. But they the first step is that they have to admit that they have a problem.

    • huh
      August 21, 2014 - 09:59

      you mean this broke, cash-strapped province needs revenue? Not a big revelation...

  • same story
    August 21, 2014 - 06:53

    Ridiculous, why can't they be used on Christmas day? This province is so backwards , get with the times !