Appeals Court will hear case of ALC’s arguably unfair Video Lottery Terminals.
In major gambling destinations—Las Vegas, Reno, Atlantic City, all the casinos of Southern Ontario—slot machines are the norm. They are the most commonly played gambling devices in North America. Aisle after aisle, bank after bank, slot machines line the floors of casinos like the yellow lines in an airport parking garage.
Here in Atlantic Canada, things are a bit different. The laws are more strict. Unless you happen to be at the Red Shores Casino in Charlottetown or Summerside, Prince Edward Island, those reels your spinning don’t belong to a slot machine. They are part of something know as a VLT. According to as many as 30,000 players of those machines, who will finally get to have their day in court, they are unfairly “deceptive, addictive, and dangerous”.
ALC’s Arguably Unfair Video Lottery Terminals
Back in 2012, a lawsuit was filed against the Atlantic Lottery Corp (ALC); the regulator that oversees all gambling activities for the provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.
In the original lawsuit, the following statement was filed in the courts of Newfoundland and Labrador:
“VLTs are inherently deceptive, inherently addictive and inherently dangerous when used as intended.”
Allegations in the case claim that VLTs do not fit into any of the categories defined as legal gambling. Instead, plaintiffs allege that video lottery games are illegal. They say the machines are akin to an unlawful gambling game known as Three Card Monte.
Six very long years later, the Appeals Court has finally decided not to grant a motion by ALC to dismiss the case. Arguments that VLTs are potentially illegal in Atlantic Canada will be heard. The class action suit could list as many as 30,000 names on the plaintiff’s docket; all players of VLTs in Newfoundland and Labrador after April of 2006.
If successful, this case could impact the entire nation, with similar claims likely to arise in other provinces of Canada; especially on the Atlantic border, where real slot machines are all-but nonexistent.
Slot Machines vs. VLT Gambling Experience
On the outside, there doesn’t appear to be much difference between slots and VLTs. They look alike. Sound alike. They even appear to pay out alike. But that’s not really the case. If it were, ALC would just call them slot machines. They don’t, because they can’t.
There are subtle, yet critical differences between the two. In all of its published documentation on these games, the ALC is incredibly vague as to how they actually work; how they differ from slot machines. That is, no doubt, a contributing factor in the court’s decision to allow the class action suit.
Both slots and VLTs support randomly determined outcomes. The outcome is decided the moment the player presses the spin button. Players have no way of influencing the result. These are all similarities between slots and VLTs.
The subtle difference is only vaguely noted in the following statement, found in many ALC brochures:
“Every play has the same chance of being a winner or loser as the one before it and the one after it, however, your odds of winning prizes of different amounts vary based on the size and number of the prizes available to be won.”
That last part says it all—“number of prizes available to be won”. The name Video Lottery Terminals comes from the fact that they are nothing more than big machines that mimic scratch-off lottery tickets.
VLT = One Big Machine Full of Lottery Tickets?
Imagine each machine as one big roll of tickets. The ALC decides how many winning and losing tickets there will be, and how much money will be won on each winning ticket. All those tickets are then thrown into the machine. It mixes them up and randomly spits one out each time the game is played.
In essence, that is what’s going on every time a VLT is played; unlike slot machines, in which the size and availability of prizes is not predetermined. Slots are truly random and unpredictable games of chance. VLTs are a controlled gambling mechanism.
While those scratchies are perfectly legal, the way video lottery games are advertised and promoted just might put them in the ‘illegal’ column. The ALC says no. Sometime in the foreseeable future, we’ll find out what the courts have to say on the matter.
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