NS gambling revenues jump 2 years after prevention program cancelled

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia gambling revenue increases again'
Nova Scotia gambling revenue increases again
WATCH: Nova Scotia gambling revenue increases again – Jul 21, 2016

A spike in revenues from ticket lotteries and video lottery terminals (VLTs) boosted the Nova Scotia Provincial Lotteries and Casino Corporation’s revenue by more than $40 million in the last year.

The lottery corporation said Thursday its revenues hit $441 million in 2015-16 compared to $396.6 million in 2014-15.

Big wins in ticket lotteries and a surge in revenues from VLTs are the reasons for the “strong” growth according to president and CEO Bob MacKinnon.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia using stale data, not tracking gambling programs: Auditor general

VLT revenues increased for the second year in a row after the government cancelled the My-Play program in August 2014. The program was meant to deter people with gambling addictions from playing, but instead the government said the program only stopped non-problem gamblers from playing.

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The corporation’s financial statements show that in the last year VLT revenues spiked by $19.6 million to $132.6 million.

MacKinnon said the corporation doesn’t track who is gambling at the VLTs on a regular basis so it doesn’t know if the spike in revenues is from casual gamblers or addicted gamblers.

VLTs are the “most addictive gambling product” in the province, clinical therapist Elizabeth Stephen said. She says if the government doesn’t replace My-Play with another program then it should consider other options such as limiting the locations of VLT machines to make it easier for addicted gamblers to avoid playing.

“We need a seat belt, we need an airbag, they’re too fast, they’re too sophisticated, they’re designed to keep people playing,” she said.

A health department report released in June shows there were no reductions in low-risk, moderate-risk or problem gambling between 2007 and 2013.

The report was written in 2013 but only released in 2016 after the urging of Nova Scotia Auditor General Michael Pickup.

Statistics in the report prompted Nova Scotia’s deputy chief medical officer of health to call for more action from the government.

“These findings highlight the need for better harm reduction and prevention efforts to protect and support Nova Scotians who gamble, their families, and their communities,” Dr. Frank Atherton wrote in the report.

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Of the revenue raised by Nova Scotia Provincial Lotteries and Casino Corporation, $141.4 million will go into provincial coffers.

-With a file from Heide Pearson, Global News

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