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Video Lottery Terminals in Canada

Over the past twenty years, Canadian lotteries have grown steadily in popularity as the result of effective advertising campaigns.

The lotteries offered were the types of games people have grown used to over the years, such as instant lotteries, lotto, and sports gaming products.

In an effort to counteract increasing competition from lotteries and other forms of gambling in the United States, Canadian government officials are turning to more innovative types of lotteries they hope will capture increased gaming revenues.

One of the newest wrinkles in the industry is the introduction of video lottery terminals.

Even those involved in the expansion of video lottery terminals agree that the traditional lotteries may slip as a result of the newer products.

Video lottery terminals were introduced in New Brunswick in 1990. By 1993, over fifteen thousand video lottery terminals were established in seven provinces, and many provincial governments want to install even more because the income from the machines far exceeded expectations.

Some officials, however, are afraid that too rapid an expansion may backfire on the lottery industry as a whole, especially in the face of the public's concern over social problems which might develop.

What happened in one province after the introduction of the new product lends a certain validity to their fears.

In Nova Scotia, the government allowed these video lotteries to be installed in food stores and similar non-age-controlled establishments.

Not surprisingly, underage gamblers discovered that they, too, could try their hand at winning. Store personnel soon realized that there was no effective way to prevent the minors from playing on the machines.

This development generated some bad publicity regarding video lotteries, and government officials swiftly removed them from all but age-restricted establishments.

As a result of what happened in Nova Scotia, most of the other provinces have thus far allowed the machines to be set up only in age-restricted businesses such as liquor stores.

Manitobans, in particular, have been very cautious as to where and how many video lottery terminals they will allow.

Provincial officials are also of the opinion that gauging the social impact of the game is just as important as the game itself.

This reflects increasing public scrutiny of all gambling proliferation. Alberta, like Manitoba, has a heightened awareness of public acceptance of yet another gaming device.

And three provinces, as of late 1993, did not allow video lottery terminals at all--- British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec.

Ontario and Quebec, in particular, are concentrating their efforts on new casino operations and do not wish to introduce yet another form of gaming that might jeopardize what they already have in place.

British Columbia, however, wants to install player-operated sales terminals (POSTS) that have video versions of instant games. Lottery officials are also requesting that electronic bingo be allowed to operate.

The POSTS have been deliberately set up to resemble Las Vegas-type video casino games as little as possible. The devices will accept only personal identification numbers (PINS), much like a bank card machine.