Canadian Province Sitting on Millions Set Aside to Help Problem Gamblers
The Canadian province of Nova Scotia, which sits on the North Atlantic Ocean, is known for its water sports and whale watching. The winters in Nova Scotia are long and hard, which may account for the prevalence of gambling in the area, specifically the video lottery terminals, or VLTs.
Anti-VLT activists have charged that the province of Nova Scotia is sitting on millions of dollars in money that should go toward helping problem gamblers, as well as drug addicts, get into programs where they can receive treatment.
The VLT Money in Nova Scotia
As in other parts of Canada, gaming in Nova Scotia is regulated by the provincial government rather than the federal government. One percent of all revenue collected from VLTs, lottery sales, and casino profits must go into a fund for problem gamers and drug addicts. Currently, it is estimated that the fund contains approximately $6 million, and that represents about 20 years’ worth of gaming revenue. The monetary fund is overseen by the Gambling Awareness Foundation of Nova Scotia. However, the money is currently controlled by three officials of the Department of Health and Welfare, and it has been trickling rather than flowing out of the fund.
Where the Money Is
The foundation reported that $1.5 million of the fund’s money had been given to community groups since 2010 for research into gaming addiction. However, the money within the fund has more than doubled in the last eight years, in part because of the growing popularity of gaming throughout the province, and because there is so much money in the fund. The amount has doubled because of interest rates.
Randy Delorey, Nova Scotia’s minister of health, has stated that the fund must begin to disperse the money more quickly so it can benefit the people who need it the most. There have been calls for an audit of the fund in order to make sure that the money that is being taken out of the fund is being spent on those individuals who need it to help them with their gambling problems. However, the managers of the fund have stated that because they are entrusted with the money, they want to be sure the money will be spent wisely.
Suggestions for Funding Projects
Advocates for problem gamblers and drug addicts have proposed several uses for the money. First, they would use the money to open drop-in centers in one or two locations across the Nova Scotia where gamblers or drug addicts could go to get out of an atmosphere of drugs or gambling and talk about the problems they are having. Counseling would be available at the drop-in centers, which could also be places where group meetings could be held for those people who are trying to stay away from their demons. Drop-in centers were popular when the gambling fund was instituted in 1998. Two centers, for problem gamblers only, were opened in order for gamers to have a place to come and talk about their problems, as well as receive counseling and therapy. However, both those centers have now closed.
Another suggestion for the money has been to use it for antigaming literature and advertisements and place them on billboards and online throughout the province because many people would be able to see them and talk about the issue with their family members. In addition, others have suggested that there should be smaller drop-in centers along provincial roads that might lead to video lottery terminals so that the gamers could choose to leave the road and drop in for help quickly.
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