Nova Scotia proposes legislation to avoid the possibility of a future VLT class action law suit in the province.
When a pattern of negative situations presents itself, you take steps to avoid similar repercussions. If people keep getting sick at the same restaurant, you avoid that restaurant. If the weather always turns rotten on your birthday, you plan an indoor party. Government official in Nova Scotia feel the same way, which is why they are proposing legislation to prevent class action lawsuits against video lottery terminals in the province.
In the last few years, public opinion towards VLTs has taken a negative turn, to say the least. There are currently two law suits circulating in two separate provinces of Canada, and contrary to the beliefs of their respective regulatory lottery corporations, they are not simply going away. There are now 30,000+ people looking to recoup losses from these lottery-style slot machines, and Nova Scotia wants to make sure it’s not next on the list.
N.S. Moves to Avoid VLT Class Action Law Suits
With the potential for a costly law suit looming in the all-too-conceivable future, Nova Scotia’s law makers introduced a measure on Tuesday that would protect the province from law suits in relation to video lottery terminals. The proposal suggests amendments to the Gaming Control Act that would grant immunity in such cases to the Nova Scotia government, its ministers, the N.S. Gaming Corporation, the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC), and licensed casino operators that host VLT gaming machines in the province.
The amendments are attached to the spring budget. Pending approval, the changes will prevent any of the above listed entities from being held liable in a VLT-related class action law suit where punitive damages are sought.
Finance Minister Karen Casey assured that immunity would not apply in cases of negligence or omission. It is simply meant to protect the province and associated agencies and businesses – as well as the tax payers of Nova Scotia – from potentially frivolous law suits of VLT players who might decide, without just cause, that they want their money back.
“We need to be prepared here so that taxpayers are not on the hook for something that may come out of the legal action,” explained Casey. Because let’s be realistic – when the government owes money, it is the taxpayers who foot the bill.
The current class action lawsuits against VLT slot machines assert that the machines are predatory in nature. The suit in Newfoundland and Labrador currently boasts an estimated 30,000 in its class, arguing that video lottery terminals are inherently deceptive, addictive and illegal by the terminology of the Criminal Code. The ALC insists the games are decided entirely by chance, as law requires, and requested the case be dismissed.
The first suit was filed against the ALC in 2012. It wasn’t until 2017 that the courts responded.They refused ALC’s request to dismiss, granting the plaintiffs approval for a hearing. Three years later, it remains undecided. However, with the class size growing and fears worsening that they just might win, it’s back in the news, and back under the microscope of provincial leaders.
In December, New Brunswick’s government amended its laws to protect itself against similar cases. Last month, a second VLT class action suit was filed in British Columbia. The lead plaintiff in that case wants all losses returned, plus $1 million in punitive damages.
Experts say Nova Scotia isn’t the first to propose a legislative shield against law suits, and won’t be the last. They predict law makers in Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island will follow suit in the very near future.
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