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Editorial: Show us the VLT money

An Atlantic Lottery Corp. video lottery terminal in St. John’s in March 2014.
An Atlantic Lottery Corp. video lottery terminal in St. John’s, March 2014. — SaltWire Network

Soon, it looks like a window will open that the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) has tried to keep closed for years.

A recent Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court decision means the ALC may not be able to stop the release of information that shows just how much money individual video lottery terminals (VLTs) are paying out in net profits.

The ALC had gone to court after this province’s Department of Finance said that it planned to release the information to satisfy an access to information request. The ALC appealed that decision to the province’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, who agreed with Finance officials that the information should be released.

The ALC has always kept VLT information close to the chest; in years past, it has refused to reveal how much money was being wagered on VLTs in this province.

The ALC claimed in court that the release of the financial details would affect individual retailers who hadn’t been given an opportunity to argue against releasing the information.

The ALC has always kept VLT information close to the chest; in years past, it has refused to reveal how much money was being wagered on VLTs in this province.

The numbers can be significant: internal documents obtained in 2014 by The Telegram found that one single VLT took in over $650,000 during a 10-month period, and made over $140,000 in net profits. It was just one of four machines at the same establishment that saw more than $600,000 played on each machine.

In the Supreme Court judgement, which was issued on June 19, Judge David Orsborn wrote that he understood ALC’s position: “ALC is seeking to protect not its own financial interests, but the interests of the retailers who house the VLTs. As noted, the (net revenue) information includes net VLT revenue by retailer establishment, from which may be derived some assessment of relative customer activity in the various establishments and, conceivably, some sense of the commissions to which a particular retailer is entitled as a result of the VLT revenue.”

In the end, though, the judge said, “I have concluded that this appeal must fail because … ALC has no standing to bring an appeal on behalf of its retailers.”

We should point out that we don’t believe the access to information request in question is one filed by a Telegram journalist. Given the nature of the information requested, it is most likely a request filed by either a law firm or another media organization, so within the next few weeks, full information about what individual VLTs took in over a two-year period should surface. Whether it is another media organization or not, the information requested will be made public by the province on its access to information website.

That is, unless the ALC makes another attempt to block the release by moving to another level of the courts somehow. Based on what can be gleaned from the process, whoever originally made the request for information made it back in 2016.

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