In Nova Scotia, gambling is provided by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation and Casino Nova Scotia, on behalf of the crown corporation Nova Scotia Gaming Corp. (NSGC). The revenue from gambling activities like ticket lotteries, video lottery terminals (VLTs), and casino gaming is given to NSGC, which distributes the funds to different groups.
NSGC reports that 73% of adults in Nova Scotia gambled at least once from 2018 – 2019. $1.4 billion was wagered during this time period. While most of what was wagered (almost $1 billion) was given back to gamblers in prize payouts, $461 million was kept by NSGC as cash revenue. About 43% of the wagers were on VLT machines.
The $461.3 million of gambling revenue made was divided more or less equally between the NSGC, the Nova Scotia provincial government, and gamblers in the form of gambling prizes.
According to NSGC the money given to the provincial government is used to fund programs and services that benefit Nova Scotians. This is impossible to track as these revenues are not earmarked for any specific expenditures but are part of the “general revenue”. The money earned by the NSGC is used to maintain the business, pay back retailer commissions, as well as a small amount (3%) for community and education, prevention, and treatment programs.
Looking at VLTs in particular, despite a requirement that 93% to 95% of the wagers be returned in prizes, the actual amount (2019) is about 78% due to re-wagering winnings.
- The NSGC says that 100% of gambling profits go back to the people of the province through improved infrastructure (roads, hospitals, etc.). Is this a fair statement? Is it ethical to fund hospitals with revenue from products that are known to cause harm?
- Do you agree with the proportion allocated to funding education, prevention, and treatment?
- How does the revenue distribution seen here gel with the perception that gambling (NSGC) helps the community, that NSGC is trying to cultivate?
- Given that 43% of NS wagers were on VLT machines and up to 50% of gambling revenue comes from people at risk for gambling harms, how does gambling revenue influence the government’s motivation to effectively address gambling harms?