Government is removing the My-Play System from the province's video lottery terminals (VLTs) after, it says, learning the system is not meeting objectives.
The My-Play System was adopted to give players information about their current and past VLT activity to help them make informed decisions about their play.
The system will move to a voluntary model Aug. 22 and will start to be disabled Sept. 8.
"While the My-Play System may have been a reasonable attempt to improve responsible gaming features on VLTs, in the end, it did not reduce play by people with gambling addictions, and in fact, the vast majority of play sessions didn't even use the main features of the product," said Andrew Younger, Minister responsible for Part I of the Gaming Control Act.
"In addition to providing responsible gambling programs and being mindful of people with gambling addictions, we must also be mindful of public dollars. We have reached the conclusion that, given the system does not work as intended, further spending of public dollars on it is not reasonable."
The system became mandatory on all VLTs in Nova Scotia in April 2012, and a My-Play card was required. Despite efforts to promote the responsible gambling features, only a small percentage of players were using the real-time and historical information. Other mandatory responsible gambling features will remain on VLTs to help players manage their play, including mandatory cash outs.
"The My-Play System will be removed in the coming weeks. We do understand that there is a need to have support and services for those affected by problem gambling," said Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine. "We continue to offer gambling support services throughout the province for all Nova Scotians, and I would encourage anyone affected by problem gambling to please call the Problem Gambling Help Line at 1-888-347-8888 or seek assistance through their local health provider."
Progressive Conservative Gaming Control critic Chris d’Entremont says the Liberal government is vulnerable Nova Scotians at risk because it doesn't a new plan to help problem gamblers after the removal of the My-Play system. And, he says, the announcement is a far cry from what then Liberal Gaming critic Leo Glavine said in opposition.
D’Entremont says scrapping the My-Play program without replacing it with an alternative solution to curb problem gamblers is not only incompetent, but irresponsible.
“Turning to problem gamblers to balance the budget is not competent fiscal management,” says d’Entremont. “It’s immoral. And it makes me worry that this is the first step towards unfettered on-line gambling in our province.
“The social impacts of problem gambling haven't changed just because a new government is collecting the revenue,” says d’Entremont. “What does Minister Glavine have to say today as thousands of problem gamblers are left holding the bag?”
Statistics estimate that approximately 45,000 people are negatively impacted by gambling in Nova Scotia.
NDP Health critic Dave Wilson also wants to know what the Liberals’ plan is to reduce problem gambling following the elimination of the My Play Program. He also wonders why Leo Glavine is now removing a safeguard designed to make it harder for people to use VLTs when just a few years ago he suggested the machines should be eliminated.
“In the past year Leo Glavine has gone from someone who wanted to ban VLTs to someone who is willing to axe prevention programs because of cost,” said Wilson. “Clearly when it comes to VLT addiction, the Liberals aren’t doing what they said they would prior to the election, so I’d like to know what their plan is.”
Wilson wants to know what evidence the Liberal government used to determine the program wasn’t meeting its objectives. He also says the Liberals should have first implemented an alternative system before eliminating My Play.
“If the government doesn’t think the current system is meeting objectives, then make improvements or find a better system,” said Wilson. “You can’t just pull the plug on a program that has helped people curb problem gambling habits without providing a back-up plan. The province should at least ensure the money Atlantic Lotto will save from eliminating the My Play program will be reinvested into programs to combat VLT addiction.”