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Provincial Finance Act needs changes to deal with N.S. deficit, Dexter

HALIFAX, N.S. - Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter is confirming his government will have to amend the Provincial Finance Act to help deal with the province's ballooning deficit.

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's NDP government has pulled the plug on a controversial electronic gambling game introduced last March.

Finance
Minister Graham Steele rose in the legislature Monday and announced in
a statement that Keno would be discontinued in about 180 bars and
restaurants by Oct. 22.

“Even on its own terms, Keno has not been a success,” Steele told the house.

“Revenue has fallen 80 per cent below expectations, with the result that Keno is actually losing money.”

Outside the legislative chambers, Steele told reporters that he made the decision after consulting with stakeholders.

He said it will cost $3.4 million to leave the game, which will come out of general gaming revenues paid to the province.

The
writeoff includes the cost of draw equipment, computer hardware and
software, installation costs and lottery retail terminals.

Keno was introduced, amid much criticism, by the former Tory government of Rodney MacDonald.

Opponents
argued that the game, which allows players to pick their own numbers
and monitor draw results on video screens, would further harm problem
gamblers.

Even the Nova Scotia Gaming Foundation - an
arm's-length government body - sounded the alarm, pointing to a 2007
gambling study that found daily versions of Keno, known as Bucko and
Salsa Bingo, were the second-most likely category for gambling problems
after video lottery terminals.

“The questions that were raised
at the time about possibly feeding addictive behaviour have in my view
not been properly answered,” said Steele. “And then when you add to
that the fact the game is actually losing money, it made the decision
very easy.”

The previous Tory government had expected to take in $2 million to $3 million a year on the game.

Nova
Scotia Gaming Corp. spokeswoman Robyn McIsaac said the latest figures
on revenues, covering the period from April 1 to Aug. 31, showed the
game actually experienced a net loss of $432,000.

“We've been working with the minister on the analysis and we support this decision,” said McIsaac.

The government move was also welcomed by the Liberals, who were against the introduction of the game from the outset.

Gambling
critic Leo Glavine said it's important that problem gamblers have one
less opportunity to be tempted, despite the cost of the pullout.


“In the long run it will be beneficial to Nova Scotians because we
won't have to deal with the results of addictions and negative impacts
on our communities,” he said.

But Conservative critic Cecil
Clarke questioned the wisdom of pulling out at a time when the province
is cash-strapped and facing a deficit of $590 million.

“In a
situation where the government has to look at revenue streams, to make
a decision at this time that's going to cost taxpayers millions more,
is one where we're going to have to look at the details further.”

Steele said Clarke's argument was an odd one given that the game is a money-loser.

“This
was a mistake made by the previous government,” said Steele. “It's a
mistake that's going to cost $3.4 million, but we're going to get out
before we find the real human and financial cost.”

 
 
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