Nova Scotia will not undergo a new study on the costs of problem gambling until someone, somewhere figures out how to do such a thing.

Finance Minister Graham Steele said the province will not make a second attempt to study the issue because no one knows exactly how to do it. The province recently killed a long-delayed study into the issue after paying $140,000 for it, saying the methodology was too flawed to be of any value.

“Part of it was the challenge of going where nobody had gone before,” Steele said this week.
He said attempting another plan right now would be throwing good money after bad.

“It’s not that we don’t want to know, it’s that nobody knows how to do it. The previous government hired somebody who thought he knew how to do it and it ended in what I can only call failure,” said Steele.

“Until we’re sure that it can be done and people know how to do it, we don’t want to repeat the failure.”

The province has refused to release the results of the previous report. Steele said if someone somewhere else comes up with a proper methodology for measuring the costs of gambling he would like to see that performed here in Nova Scotia.

At the same time the province is pursuing a five-year gambling strategy that will look forward to the year 2016. It will be developed by Ron L’Esperance, a former deputy minister in the province. The study will look at how to deal with problem gambling, despite not knowing the full costs. He said the province will not be banning VLTs so it needs to find ways to mitigate damage.

“We need to know what practical steps will actually work that will come to grips with the problem that a relatively large proportion of VLT revenue comes from a relatively small number of people,” said Steele.

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