An online casino run by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) that allows bets of up to C$100 per slot spin or C$500 per hand of blackjack for residents of New Brunswick is setting up plans to expand into the other two of the Maritimes, the provinces of Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) and Nova Scotia.
Online Casino in New Brunswick
The online casino which launched in August 2020, 2 years after one of its 4 provincial shareholders, New Brunswick, approved it after years of constant attempts by the ALC to get at least one of the provinces sign on the lucrative project, believes there is nothing wrong with the exclusively high bets of up to 40 times the maximum allowed on the casino’s physical video lottery terminals (VLTs).
As the launch coincided with the coronavirus outbreak and the lockdown and restrictive measures to curb the spread of the infection afterwards, which forced people at home and with nothing much to do, ALC CEO Chris Keevill looks to capitalize as much as possible from the situation.
“Offshore operators who are marketing to Atlantic Canadians really picked up steam over COVID. We don’t think that they operate with the best interests and safety of Atlantic Canadians in mind.”
Chris Keevill, CEO, Atlantic Lottery Corporation
Chris Keevill boldly stated that around C$100 million per year leave the region in the direction of offshore gambling websites, yet when asked to share how the ALC reached to that figure contradicted himself with claiming the money outflows were “very difficult to track”.
Attracting the Other Provinces
The proposal to the other 2 Maritimes provinces comes during times when traditional lottery revenues are expected to be materially impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. While Keevill did not provide details as to how much the casino generates from its New Brunswick operations, promises like the one given to the P.E.I. government that it would receive C$750,000 in profit for the first year of operation of the online casino seems to be too good to refuse.
And while the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation signaled it was evaluating the idea of online casino in the province, in December the P.E.I. cabinet approved its participation, with the idea of ensuring a safe and regulated gaming environment. The 4th Atlantic province, Newfoundland and Labrador, does not feature heavily in the ALC expansion plans.
Keevill stands behind the ridiculously high bets, claiming the ALC was just equaling the playing field with offshore operators many of which do not have limits at all. But according to counselling gambling harm specialists, what the casino company is seeking to achieve is to normalize and legitimize online casino gambling by positioning it as something good for the local community.
The high stakes, the normalization effect and the easier access to the games online would only contribute to higher levels of gambling addiction, many believe, including P.E.I. opposition which would seek public consultations before the online casino launch.
“I’m concerned about making gambling increasingly available to people who are already struggling with gambling addiction. And moving this online will ensure increased access to Islanders.”
Michele Beaton, Green Party Member of Legislative Assembly, Mermaid-Stratford