The Nova Scotia government has issued a decree that clears the way for the development of officially sanctioned online casino games, potentially as early as this spring.
The move has attracted opposition from anti-gambling campaigners who are concerned that it could prompt a rise in those developing a dangerous addiction from the security of their own homes.
Last summer, the Atlantic Lottery Commission (ALC) launched a website specifically aimed at New Brunswick, with the intention of expanding it to the other Atlantic provinces – namely Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia, subject to the approval of the local regional government.
Nova Scotia has effectively become the first to exploit the opportunity.
In large part, they have acted now to try and stem the tide of people gambling online on websites which have nothing to do with the Atlantic provinces, with an estimated CAD $100 million being spent on such sites.
Players have been attracted by the many casino bonuses for Canadian players and other promotional offers, many of which are listed here.
In other words, if that many is being spent on online casino games is being spent anyway by local residents, then it is better it remains local, where it can be taxed and the money from that funnelled into State coffers.
Previously, although nearly three-quarters of all Nova Scotians participate in at least one betting activity, they have been restricted legally to bingo and two licensed casinos in Sydney and Halifax.
However, through the ALC they also have online access to slots, lottery tickets, and sports betting.
All the proceeds from gambling in the province go directly to fund local programmes and services. This was estimated at nearly CAD $ 137 million for the 2019 calendar year.
The anti-gambling lobby though are not happy, because the existing New Brunswick site allows players to bet up to CAD $500 on a single blackjack hand or CAD $100 on a single pull on a VLM (Virtual Slot Machine).
They have already expressed deep c, after a local organisation set-up to tackle gambling addiction, and to conduct research into the matter was shut down. The Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness justified their decision by claiming it was part of a change of strategy on tackling gambling addiction.
Now it was be included within broader initiatives addressing mental health and addiction issues.
Some have argued that the timing is all wrong, especially when the Covid-19 pandemic has forced people to stay home. Not only are they more likely to turn to gambling as a way of alleviating the stress and boredom of lockdown but, if they do find their behaviour is becoming addictive, they no longer have access to the same resource for dealing with the problem.
There are also fears that, even once lockdowns are lifted, and life returns to some form of normality, that people may have developed an online gaming habit that will be hard to shake. The last thing that is needed is for the Provincial government to make it easier to gamble.