In lieu of regulatory updates, Nova Scotia is encouraging all residents to participate in its self-exclusion casino program survey.
When it comes to law making, public consultation is generally a limited affair. Politicians, being the (supposedly) highly educated members of society that they are, tend to believe they know what’s best for the people. They take it upon themselves to debate issues among colleagues and enforce laws for the greater good.
In Nova Scotia, political figureheads and gaming regulators are looking to the people more than ever before. For the first time in many years, they’ve got permission to enforce new casino laws. In particular, they’re looking to update voluntary self-exclusion rights among casino patrons. And they’re asking for your help.
Voluntary Self-Exclusion Casino Program
At present, self-excluded gamblers are subject to an indefinite, lifetime ban. There is no option for a shorter time frame. Once a player signs up for the program, they are unable to enter either Nova Scotia casinos, in Halifax or Sydney. Nova Scotia is the only province in Canada that does not offer an optional length of time to be on the self-exclusion list.
However, those in the program do have the option to apply for reinstatement of rights to enter a casino. It’s a long and arguably invasive process, though. It starts with a psychological and financial assessment. Then, the individual is subject to a hearing in front of the Utility & Review Board.
History of Failure in Other Provinces
There’s no denying that other parts of Canada, where exclusion time frames are negotiable, are failing. Ontario seems to be the worst. Here, members of the self-exclusion program have been gaining entry to casinos for years. The situation was highlighted in a television report on CBC’s The Fifth Estate in December 2017.
Toronto gambler Joe Frieri was the center of that report. He says he’s been on the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp’s (OLG’s) voluntary self-exclusion list three times. The first was a 6-month stint in 2008, after he’d lost an estimated $300,000 to an uncontrollable gambling habit. During that time, he says he had no trouble visiting casinos about 10 times.
Frieri says self-exclusion was his away of acknowledging that he couldn’t stop on his own. Unfortunately, it didn’t help at all. Whenever he had the urge to go back to a casino, he did. “Nothing prevented me from going,” he told CBC. “No questions were asked.”
To prove the situation has yet to improve, a Fifth Estate team member went undercover. He entered an OLG casino, signed up for self-exclusion, then tried to enter four different OLG casinos in a single day. He was able to gamble on slot machines in all four, and cash out winnings, without question.
Be a Part of New Casino Laws in Nova Scotia
The government of Nova Scotia is hoping to be first to employ a truly successful voluntary self-exclusion casino program. Watching Ontario waste half a million dollars on facial-recognition technology that’s clearly not working was an eye-opener. Now that they have a chance to write new casino laws to help problem gamblers, they want to make sure they get it right.
Nova Scotia is encouraging all adult residents of the province to take part in a special survey. It asks what route people think should be taken, and why.
Are optional ban lengths of 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, and/or lifetime the right answer? Should those who sign up for self-exclusion be given instant access back into casinos if/when a ban expires? Should the existing review process remain intact?
These questions and many more await input from Nova Scotia’s residents. From December 3-31, 2018, you can be a part of that decision. Take the survey now.
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