ALC Faces Backlash for Promoting iGaming in Nova Scotia

It seemed like a good idea at the time. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation sent more than 400,000 flyers to people in Nova Scotia to offer a welcome bonus for its online gambling site. Considering the recent launch of the site for Nova Scotians and controversy surrounding it, the move was a bit risky. And the ALC is receiving backlash for it.

Expanding Online Gambling

The idea of online gambling took root during the pandemic. Of course, the Atlantic Lottery Corporation thought about offering online casino games and online poker in the past, but never did it seem so important as during the 2020 pandemic.

As the sale of lottery tickets at retailers dropped due to Covid-mandated closures, online lottery ticket sales increased five times in just the first few months.

The ALC moved forward in mid-2020 with a plan to offer online casino games like slots and table games via an online gambling site. It launched in New Brunswick in August 2020 while also seeking provincial approvals in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Nova Scotia’s Executive Council Office did approve online casino-style games in February 2021, with PEI showing every intention of following. All areas covered by the ALC knew the revenue would be beneficial in the pandemic recovery. Further, online gambling in a regulated environment would keep tax dollars in local communities versus the millions of dollars gambled in non-regulated casinos online each year.

First Big Promotion Surprises Many

The ALC decided to do something big to promote online gambling in Nova Scotia. Typical online advertisements were fine, but the host of the online games wanted to do something bigger.

It sent exactly 409,314 flyers to people in Nova Scotia, to about 40% of the province’s population. Those enticements to gamble on the ALC’s website included a $20 voucher to everyone who started a new account.

ALC spokesperson Jillian Moore told CBC that the promotion had the intended effect. “As a general practice, Atlantic Lottery does not release financial or other results related to specific marketing campaigns or promotions,” she said. But she did this time, “Overall, we have seen a significant increase in new accounts being created in recent months, with the number of players on alc.ca doubling since April 1, 2020.”

Some of that doubling of new accounts is a result of the pandemic in general, a response to people being unable to access most land-based gambling options over the past year. However, some of the increase is undoubtedly a result of introducing the games to new players and offering new promotions.

Raising Eyebrows

CBC talked to a Tory finance critic, Murray Ryan, about his concerns, some of which echo throughout the public in response to the new availability of and promotions for igaming.

Ryan said that the tactic is not okay. “It’s like, ‘Here’s free money; here’s the website to go to.’ Whereas without that voucher, without that coming in the mail, many Nova Scotians would never go looking for it, would never come across it.”

Evidently, the ALC also failed to clear the promotion with the government. Health Minister Zach Churchill expressed some concern about the flyers and planned to speak with ALC officials about it.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill was more outspoken in opposition. He called it inappropriate and said, “If there was ever a wrong time to be incentivizing a program such as this, this would be it.”

Burrill referred to the pandemic, a yearlong health crisis that led to an economic crisis for many people across Canada. He indicated that the promotion takes advantage of people’s time in lockdown.

Protections Without GANS

The ALC has insisted that it offers strong player protections and responsible gambling information for existing and new players on its site. The site itself includes age and residency verifications, as well as options for players to set deposit limits, time limitations, and self-exclusion options.

Some Nova Scotians hesitate to believe that the prevention of gambling harm is a top priority of the ALC or the government, as they just folded GANS (Gambling Awareness Nova Scotia) in January 2021.

The ALC does host a PlayWise section of its website to provide responsible gambling information and help for those who may need it. This does provide quite a few tools to retailers and land-based gambling facilities to tackle gambling issues, some feel that it does not conduct significant outreach to communities that have or will be affected by online gambling.

 

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

News

Loto-Québec Proceeds with $12M Salon de Jeux Move

Loto-Québec Proceeds with $12M Salon de Jeux Move

Jennifer Newell
May 7th, 2021

Phil Hellmuth Does It Again!

Phil Hellmuth Does It Again!

Derrick Oliver
May 7th, 2021

Canadians Capture 15 SCOOP Titles in PokerStars Series

Canadians Capture 15 SCOOP Titles in PokerStars Series

Jennifer Newell
May 5th, 2021