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COVID-19: Alberta bar owner questions ‘double standard’ VLT restrictions

A woman plays at a video lottery terminal at Casino Nova Scotia in Halifax. File/ Global News

Glenn Lackey is “not happy with the situation” the province’s new COVID-19 restrictions have put him in with regards to the VLT machines in his Calgary bar.

The Glenn’s Job Site Sports Bar owner told Global News on Friday he sees “no reason” why larger bars and casinos can have their VLTs operational, but his have to close.

Between his two bar locations, Lackey has 21 VLTs — eight at one and 13 at the other. Neither location falls within the newly-announced guidelines for operation, which classifies venues with more than 15 VLTs as “gaming entertainment centres.”

Read more: Some Alberta businesses taking extra COVID-19 precautions as cases surge

In an email to Global News, Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis said “as part of the government’s announcement… all VLT retailers in regions under government’s enhanced status will not be authorized to operate VLTs.”

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“During this time, and specific to venues where the primary business is food and beverage (restaurants, pubs, lounges, etc.), only seated eating and drinking is permitted,” spokesperson Heather Holmen said.

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Entertainment like billiards, games, darts and VLTs are off limits.

“It’s a double standard,” Lackey said.

“It’ll affect it tremendously. Without the VLTs we wouldn’t be in business. It’s about one-third of the business.”

AGLC said the businesses that have more than 15 VLT machines are considered “destination gaming facilities where the primary business is gaming, much like casinos, racing entertainment centres and bingo halls.”

Click to play video 'Alberta health minister details new COVID-19 restrictions for businesses in the province' Alberta health minister details new COVID-19 restrictions for businesses in the province
Alberta health minister details new COVID-19 restrictions for businesses in the province – Nov 24, 2020

They’re subject to the public health order of limiting their occupancy to 25 per cent of their capacity according to the fire code, Holmen said, but otherwise all VLTs and slot machines can operate as normal.

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Lackey said he “doesn’t understand the reasoning” and said his business will surely suffer if the government doesn’t revisit the decision and “come up with a more viable answer.”

“I’ve been in business for 40 years now — it’s always touch and go and has been a rocky road to stay in business and make a little profit.”

Read more: Calgary bar makes ‘tough decision’ to shut down as Alberta COVID-19 cases grow

The Alberta government introduced a swath of new public health measures and restrictions earlier this week, and declared a state of public health emergency, as a way to address continuously rising COVID-19 numbers.

The province recorded 1,227 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday, bringing the total active cases to 14,217.