Atlantic Lottery to Expand Online in Nova Scotia

The Atlantic Lottery Corporation regulates gambling in four provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island. The move to incorporate online casino games into online lottery sites for each of the territories gained steam in 2020 with a New Brunswick launch in August.

This year, ALC wants to offer online casino games to players in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Newfoundland and Labrador has yet to agree, but it is likely only a matter of time.

Logical Response to a Tough Year

The coronavirus pandemic shook the gambling world. Across Canada, many casinos and gambling establishments closed in March and remained closed – or at limited capacity – for much of the remainder of the year. The danger of virus spread was too dangerous.

As a result, gambling operators lost millions upon millions of revenue dollars. The only ones that didn’t suffocate during pandemic shutdowns were those that offered online gambling options to players.

The Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) relies primarily on lottery revenue for the money it is able to collect, reward, and ultimately return to communities in the from of grants and other funding opportunities. During the pandemic, however, many retail locations had to stop ticket sales, and online sales saw a consequential boost.

The pandemic only started to affect the ALC’s bottom line in its 2019-2020 financial report, but the brunt of it in the 2020-2021 fiscal year may take the numbers to new lows.

Online casino gaming revenue is a solution.

Starting in New Brunswick

According to CBC News, the ALC quietly launched an online casino site for people located in New Brunswick in August 2020. The site offers table games like blackjack and online slot games.

Efforts that dated back to 2010 failed due to government officials hesitant to open the market, but that all changed during the pandemic. Every territory needs financial help, and online gambling is one way to do so.

Another factor that affected the decision was the realization that Canadians play on offshore casino sites. They use sites licensed outside of Canada to play online casino games and bet on sports. The ALC was able to show its four territories that approximately $100 million goes to online gambling each year from players in the Atlantic region.

ALC CEO Chris Keevill told CBC, “Offshore operators who are marketing to Atlantic Canadians really picked up steam over Covid. We don’t think that they operate with the best interests and safety of Atlantic Canadians in mind.”

With no official revenue amounts offered yet, those numbers will be available in a few months when the 2020-2021 fiscal year ends.

PEI and Nova Scotia Next?

ALC pitched the Prince Edward Island government with an online gambling plan by telling them that their first year’s profit could be $750K. Combining that incentive with the monetary pains of the pandemic was good enough to convince PEI to allow the expansion. The government approved it on December 22.

Some in PEI assert that public consultation is necessary before the casino launches online. Opposition finance critic Michele Beaton voiced concerns about the details and ethics of such a decision. She noted that online gaming could increase risks for people with gambling addictions and increase access to gambling for all living in PEI.

The Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation is a bit more skeptical but is seriously evaluating the online casino as proposed by ALC. The regulator told CBC that it “will continue to work with experts to ensure Nova Scotians have a safe and responsible online gambling option.”

As for Newfoundland and Labrador, its Minister of Finance, Siobhan Coady, said the government has yet to make a decision.

Concerns to Be Addressed

ALC is not oblivious to the concerns of the territories about online gambling and the potential for gambling harm. Some of the most vocal concerns have already arisen in New Brunswick. Some have taken issue with the high-stakes options for players, who can bet as high as $500 per blackjack hand and $100 per slot machine spin.

The government and ALC can work something out.

Concerns about gambling problems are important to ALC, enough that it long ago implemented the PlayWise program. Its goal is to keep players informed about the games they play and their true odds of winning, as well as to offer information about responsible gambling.

PlayWise breaks down its offerings into these sections:

  • How games work, their odds, and separating myths from facts
  • How to self-exclude for 24 hours, for six months, or one to three years
  • Guides for parents to monitor kids’ habits and messages about gambling
  • Warning signs and assessment quiz
  • Resources for parents, families, players, and communities
  • Helplines, websites, counseling, and addiction services

Further, PlayWise is certified at the highest level by the World Lottery Association (WLA) and accredited by RG Check.

 

 

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. From her days in the WPT offices to covering summers of WSOP tournament action, she also followed gambling legislation to Washington D.C. and women-only poker to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, she lived in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for many years before moving back to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Now, Jen travels less, writing about poker and online gambling from her home with her two dogs watching her every move. In her spare time, she follows politics, works on her never-finished novels, and learns Italian in the hopes of retiring to Italy someday.

If you want to know more, you can follow Jen on Twitter @WriterJen

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