Nova Scotia Wants VLT Lawsuit Protections

Nova Scotia wants to be proactive and protect itself against lawsuits. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation wants the same, to be immune from lawsuits from people who use video lottery terminals. The class action lawsuits have been popping up around Canada, and Nova Scotia is not interested.

Thus, there is a new amendment to the Gaming Control Act. It was quietly put into the spring budget proposal. And while many provincial governments and lottery providers support it, others are afraid it will give license to them to offer gambling without any accountability.

Nothing to See Here

Nova Scotia Finance Minister Karen Casey didn’t think it warranted mention in the budget speech. She tabled the spring budget with an amendment to the Gaming Control Act in it. That amendment was introduced last week.

When asked about it, Casey said the amendment was not very different than one passed by New Brunswick last year and others that will be proposed by Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island. All of these, including Nova Scotia, are Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) partners.

Premier Stephen McNeil supports the proposal as well.

The amendment will provide legal protection to the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and ALC, as well as casino operators and cabinet ministers, from gambling-related lawsuits dating back to May 2, 1991. That was the day that video lottery terminals, or VLTs, were legalized in Nova Scotia.

Protected but Responsible

Essentially, the purpose of the amendment is to protect from people who play VLTs, lost money, and then sue to say they were mesmerized or tricked by the machine.

Casey explained that gambling is a “choice for Nova Scotians, used for entertainment.” If they “misuse” the machines, they can be harmed.

CBC reported that Casey qualified that the amendment does not absolve the government or lottery providers from tackling gambling harm. “We believe it is an individual’s choice, but we also recognize we have responsibility to help those who may be struggling.”

She also reiterated that the machines themselves are safe. And Nova Scotia does offer various responsible gambling programs.

There are 651 terminals in First Nation facilities in Nova Scotia and 2,030 others.

Opposition Not Amused

It didn’t take long for those opposed to the amendment to speak up. A personal injury lawyer in Halifax spoke to the Chronicle Herald about the proposal, saying it will deprive justice to people whose lives are destroyed by VLTs.

Ray Wagner said, “The government is proving that it is addicted to the revenue that these machines offer the province, sinister machines that are designed to drag people in and exacerbate their gambling addiction.”

(Author note: I don’t think he likes VLTs very much.)

Wagner said that this protection from lawsuits condones problem gambling. He said that bad behavior will continue “because no one will challenge the province or take them to task concerning the harm that’s being caused to people.”

Other critics of the proposal are more concerned that the amendment will create a lackadaisical attitude toward problem gambling. Their hope is that Nova Scotia will focus more on programs to assist people with gambling problems, regardless of the outcome of this proposed amendment.

Expensive Lawsuits

The goal of the amendment is to protect ALC and others from the same types of lawsuits happening in other parts of Canada.

The most recent update about a class action lawsuit about video slots puts the British Columbia Lottery Corporation up against a potentially large group of plaintiffs. That claim will allow anyone to participate who played real-money video slot games in BC from February 7, 2018 through the current day.

That lawsuit claims that VLTs are “inherently deceptive, inherently addictive and inherently dangerous when used as intended.” And the plaintiffs are suing for economic losses, emotional distress, mental anguish, and other expected harms that could include addiction, dependency, self-harm, and suicide.

Another case, this one in front of the Supreme Court of Canada, took the ALC to task in Newfoundland and Labrador. This case went through the courts with the plaintiffs losing in the first court and then the Court of Appeal. But the class action then moved to the Supreme Court.

With as many as 30,000 people involved, the case could be devastating for the ALC if the plaintiffs win.

Moreover, if the plaintiffs are successful in arguing that VLTs are harmful, the judgement could affect the entire country. From businesses whose revenue was boosted by VLTs to the ALC itself, a loss in the Supreme Court could damage untold numbers of businesses and change the entire gambling environment in Canada.

Nova Scotia wants to remove itself from that type of liability, especially with the number of people trying to sue for VLT losses growing.



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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