Last August, Atlantic Lotto launched an online casino for New Brunswick residents. For a decade, The Crown corporation had been pitching the four Atlantic provinces on the idea. Now a new online casino is in the works for Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. (ALC has no immediate plans for a similar online casino in Newfoundland and Labrador.)
According to ALC’s CEO, Chris Keevill,
“Offshore operators marketing to Atlantic Canadians really
picked up steam over COVID. We don’t think they operate
with the best interests and safety of Atlantic Canadians in mind.”
Of note, about $100 million leaves the Atlantic region each year with the accessibility of offshore websites. ALC revenues are expected to drop due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The import of the new online casino is a decrease in traditional lottery revenues. In 2016, Atlantic Lotto said that online casino could generate $80 million in net revenue over seven years.
Now the Atlantic provinces expect traditional lottery revenues to fall. The effect will vary. For example, only New Brunswickers are able to access their online casino. There are restrictions for all the Atlantic provinces because the new online games could lead to more gambling addiction.
New Brunswick’s online casino allows maximum bets on virtual slot machines up to 40 times higher than what’s allowed on in-person VLTs in the province.
Elizabeth Stephen, a registered counselling therapist in Halifax said that Atlantic Lotto’s site will “legitimize” online casino gambling, attracting people who never would have shared their credit card information with the offshore sites.
In fact, slot machines and VLTs are already the most addictive form of gambling. Putting versions of those devices online will only make it easier for people to access in her view.
In spite of increasing gambling revenues, online gambling should be stricter than those in place for in-person facilities. Apparently this is not the case with ALC’s website. If Nova Scotia launches an online casino with the same betting limits as New Brunswick, Stephen said she anticipates that profits and gambling addictions to go up.
According to the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, “implementation of online casino-style games is being evaluated.” The gambling regulator “will continue to work with experts to ensure Nova Scotians have a safe and responsible online gambling option.”
Meanwhile, the provincial Department of Finance said it intends ensure residents “play in a safe and regulated environment.”
As for P.E.I., Michele Beaton of the Green Party MLA for Mermaid-Stratford said the province should hold public consultations prior to launching its own online casino. The opposition finance critic countered that public consultations are needed before the cabinet made its decision.
According to Beaton,
“What we need to look at is how we’re raising revenue, and are we
doing it in an ethical way, and in a way that supports Islanders?”
She has expressed concerned about making gambling increasingly available to people who are already struggling with gambling addiction. She said that moving online will ensure increased access to Islanders, with the risk that it entails.