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To VLT or not to VLT? That’s the question for Town of Coaldale

Click to play video: 'To VLT or not to VLT: Coaldale discusses bringing back machines after nearly 25 years'
To VLT or not to VLT: Coaldale discusses bringing back machines after nearly 25 years
WATCH ABOVE: In the late 1990s, the Town of Coaldale was one of several communities to ban video lottery terminals, or VLTs. Now, after several attempts to bring them back over the years, a local business owner is hoping his last-ditch effort will see the new town council will move forward with a new bylaw. Eloise Therien has more. – Jan 25, 2022

The Town of Coaldale is moving forward on a new bylaw that would see long-gone video lottery machines make a comeback.

On Monday, council voted 5-2 to pass the bylaw’s first reading and move forward to a public hearing on Feb. 14.

History of VLTs in Coaldale

In 1997, Alberta communities were given the option to decide whether or not VLTs (video lottery terminals) would be permitted.

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The next year, Coaldale conducted a plebiscite to determine its direction forward, making it one of several communities to do so.

Of the 2,135 that voted, 1,280 voted to have the machines removed and 855 voted to have them stay.

The topic was back on the table years later after Ken Schmidt, the owner of the Coaldale Inn, wrote to council.

Read more: Residents to vote on whether to end VLT ban in Coaldale

“I initiated that revisiting the issue of VLTs when I got here (in 2016),” he explained, “with the intent that it would be fairly simple to get them reinstated.”

In 2017, another plebiscite was conducted. Despite a prior survey suggesting around three-quarters of area residents were in favour of bringing VLTs back, the results of the vote showed otherwise.

According to the town, 2,235 people voted, with 59.95 per cent in favour of not having the machines, while 40.04 per cent wanted them.

Moving Forward

“We do have people locally that do play them, whether that’s on their computer or travelling to the nearby casino or venues that offer VLTs,” Schmidt said.

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“From a business perspective, it is another source of revenue, especially at this time (where) we need (it).”

Mayor Jack Van Rijn said council wanted to make sure they hold a thorough public hearing before making a decision.

He encourages residents who cannot attend to write in their opinions beforehand.

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“We want the general public to have their say on it,” he said.

“(Council will) table the decision for two weeks following the Feb. 14 meeting. That way, members of council have time to digest the information.”

Global News also had an interview set up with one of the town councillors opposed to moving forward with a new VLT bylaw, but Bill Chapman later cancelled that interview saying he did not have permission to speak on the matter.

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The town’s code of conduct dictates only the mayor, chief administrative officer or another designated representative can speak to the media on behalf of the town.

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