Redistribution of VLT Funds Dissolves Gambling Addiction Awareness Organization28th January 2021 |
Expanding gambling in a particular province or territory usually brings with it a much larger revenue which is typically put towards funding community projects and NGOs, especially those targeting gambling-related problems. Nova Scotia seems to be going in the opposite direction by distributing gambling addiction awareness funds.
A few weeks ago, it was announced that Nova Scotia is evaluating launching online gambling, as was proposed by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation. However, the provincial government has just dissolved a non-profit organization whose aim was to research gambling addiction and how to prevent it. The decision has attracted criticism from people who want to know the reason behind this outcome, with most criticism coming from a community group that used to receive financial assistance from the dissolved organization. The money which was previously given to Gambling Awareness Nova Scotia (GANS) has been redistributed to the local general mental health support pool.
Gambling Risk Informed Nova Scotia, a non-profit organization that works to prevent or at the very least minimize the community harms associated with compulsive gambling, has said that the disbandment has created a lot of insecurity and uncertainty on the future funding of its own organization. If one organization could get the cut, then so could the others. According to the chairperson of the organization Bruce Dienes, this disbandment could not have come at a worse time, since people are more vulnerable to addictive behaviors than ever before, thanks to the employment and economic uncertainties brought about by the global pandemic.
As can be confirmed by visiting the Nova Scotia government’s website, a portion of the funds previously allocated to GANS was generated from a percentage of video lottery terminal (VLT) profits. According to the same website, revenues from VLTs contribute a substantial sum of CA$250K every year. This sum was annually matched by the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation to help make up the CA$300m per year funding the non-profit organization.
Dienes said that he learned that the government made the decision to begin dissolving the organization last year after it changed its regulation in 2020. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Wellness reportedly told Dienes that the decision was taken after the emergence of “new information” shedding light on the realization that the comorbidities of gambling were linked to other mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
Read about responsible gambling.
On this basis, the government decided to move the funds previously allocated to GANS to a general mental health category. Government spokesperson Marla MacInnis said that GANS will be absorbed by the overall mental health and addictions budget. “Due to the stigma (around gambling addiction), people often initially seek help for other issues. It’s best if people can access support that addresses these issues together,” she said.
However, Dienes told CBC that “the idea that this is new information is ridiculous” since “we’ve known this for decades.” He believes that the real motivation behind the decision was a “profound lack of funding for mental health in Nova Scotia.”
In the meantime, a sports betting bill has just been reintroduced to the Canadian House of Commons in an effort to generate more money amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. The bill is backed by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), which recently appointed Ms Lynda Cavanaugh as its interim president and CEO.
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