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EDITORIAL: Atlantic Lotto abets addiction with online gambling gambit

Some of Atlantic Lottery’s online casino offerings. — Screenshot from ALC website
Some of Atlantic Lottery’s online casino offerings. — Screenshot from ALC website - computer screenshot

Provincial governments in the Atlantic region already know the risks.

It remains to be seen just how many will go for the money anyway.

Right now, the Atlantic Lottery Corporation is operating an online casino in New Brunswick that lets residents of that province bet as much as $100 on a single spin of computerized slot machines — and $500 on a hand of blackjack. The government of Prince Edward Island gave cabinet approval to a provincial version of the ALC’s online casino in late December.

Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador are still pondering the idea.

The argument doesn’t seem to be about money, but safety. Apparently, while money is flowing out of the Atlantic provinces, the real government concern is not the money at all, but the safety of offshore gambling sites.

P.E.I.’s Finance Department said in a statement that it wanted residents to be able to “play in a safe and regulated environment.”


But the casino would be as close as your home office or kitchen — during the long-running depression of a pandemic. It does not sound like a match made in heaven.


An official with the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation used similar language: “Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation’s priority is to run a safe and responsible industry that operates in the best interest of all Nova Scotians.”

The ALC is also decidedly on message, pointing to an ALC-run online casino as a safe, regulated alternative to other websites.

This is, of course, the same logic that brought pernicious video lottery terminals to the region. The responsible leadership of the ALC was needed to oust illegal “grey-market” VLTs that were already operating… somewhere. Rather than charging the illegal operators and seizing the illegal machines, it was apparently better to run the syndicate ourselves.

That’s certainly worked out well — anyone who covers courts knows how often gambling addictions to oh-so-legal ALC video lottery terminals turn up in fraud and embezzlement cases.

Putting the ALC stamp of approval on online casino gambling will certainly keep money in the region that might otherwise go to offshore sites. There are also arguments to be made about personal responsibility — it’s a choice to gamble, online or otherwise.

But the casino would be as close as your home office or kitchen — during the long-running depression of a pandemic. It does not sound like a match made in heaven.

The other thing to keep in mind? The fact that patrons can get in as deep as their credit cards will let them.

As Elizabeth Stephen, a registered counselling therapist specializing in gambling addiction, pointed out to Saltwire Network, “They are going to introduce online gambling slots and VLTs to a whole new number of people that would never go into a bar or a casino to play.”

It’s an idea provincial governments should think carefully about.

But as we said at the top of this editorial, money talks.


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