Video Lottery warnings cut no ice with opponents
By staff
Video lottery machines (VLT’s) have long attracted vociferous opposition from anti-gambling groups in Canada, and the anti-gambling camp have rubbished the latest attempt at reassurance from Nova Scotia's gaming corporation. The corporation has released a study that claims problem gamblers are heeding warnings on new video lottery terminals. When the province bought new VLTs it installed four types of warnings, including an automatic cashout and time reminders. Julia Watt, spokesperson for the gaming corporation said Friday the on-screen clock showing how long someone has been gambling was the most effective feature.

She said the province will implement changes based on the findings of the study. The warning clock currently pops up on the screen after 60 minutes. That will be changed to 30.

Forty % of gamblers who responded said the clocks helped them better manage their time.

While the amount of time spent at machines by individuals has gone down, the amount of money dumped into them hasn't. Watt said officials can only assume that more people have started playing VLTs.

The corporation claims that the improvements have reduced time spent in front of machines by about 16 %, and opponents of VLTs say that gamblers are just losing money faster.

'I can't believe they would even say that,' said former VLT addict Bernie Walsh, head of the Video Online Lottery Terminators Society.

'We told them these would not deter anyone or prevent them from becoming addicted and they have not.'

However, Watt said that 'the research tells us that awareness and attitude has to come first before you can change your behaviour.'

'They're not losing more money, the study specifically showed the expenditure rate had not gone up,' said Watt, 'They're spending the same amount of money faster . . . but we're very encouraged by the results.

'The features help people be more aware of how much they are spending. Sometimes awareness is half the battle.'

Watt said the newer machines are superior in quality, speed and variety than older VLTs, which accounts for the faster play.

The Focal Research study found about four in 10 VLT players believed the clock helped them better manage the time they spent playing.

Almost half reported that the cash display presented in dollars instead of credits helped them keep track of their spending.

A mandatory cash-out feature had no impact on player behaviour, according to the study.

The researchers offered 13 recommendations on improving VLT features, ranging from making the permanent clock more distinctive to letting players set their own time limits.

The corporation expects to implement the suggestions in the next year. Nova Scotia was the first jurisdiction in North America to implement the features.

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