P.E.I.’s cabinet is set to approve another online casino site for New Brunswick residents. One had been launched last August by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation.
The forthcoming project is going forward despite public approval according to P.E.I.’s Finance Minister Darlene Compton. She doubles as the head of the P.E.I. Lotteries Commission, the province’s gambling regulator.
“We have an Atlantic Lottery Corporation is so they can do all the studies needed to ensure the provinces are entering into any agreement in a safe and regulated way.”
In her words, the onus is on ALC to ensure that consultation is done, and has been done for this product. A new provincially sanctioned online casino would allow Islanders to play in a safe, regulated environment.
However, Atlantic Lotto CEO Chris Kevil said it’s not for Atlantic Lotto to decide whether the public should be engaged in a discussion around a new government-run virtual casino. He maintained that such discussions are within the purview of the provinces themselves.
Meanwhile, the lottery corporation had engaged two different organizations to conduct “independent expert reviews” of its online casino and provide recommendations.
Those reviews “found no substantial evidence that the introduction of online casino gambling would have a measurable impact on vulnerable players, nor that problem gambling has become more prevalent in other Canadian jurisdictions where online casino games are already available.”
Compton, however, favors further consultations as “another layer” on top of what the ALC has already done.
It is a major issue given that residents of the four Atlantic provinces spend $100 million on offshore sites each year.
“If people are doing it, we need to ensure that it’s regulated and that we can put all those protections in place to ensure Islanders are doing it in a safe way.”
Opposition to the Crown Corporation entering into gambling matters worry that it will encourage more playing, leading to addiction and financial hardship. The government should not be promoting or profiting from online casinos.
A public discussion on the potential merits and risks of a new gambling website is thus pertinent. Opposition health critic, Trish Altass, calls it “reckless” for the government to introduce a website during a pandemic, when many Islanders are already struggling with mental health issues.
The P.E.I. government in its defense says that it has advised Atlantic Lotto that the casino would “require wager and deposit limits on the low end of what is permitted in Canada.” In fact, these issues are currently being worked out between ALC and the P.E.I. Lotteries Commission.
Atlantic Lotto has revealed that it could clear $750,000 in profits from the virtual casino after expenses, including a share of the development costs for the online site, during the first year of operation.