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VLT gamble coming The provincial government has put all its chips on the table and is betting British Columbians who support Video Lottery Terminals are going to come out of the vault in support of electronic gambling machines. While newly appointed Government Services Minister Ujall Dosanjh heads from meeting to meeting seeking input from gaming supporters, more municipalities across the province are passing local legislation effectively amputating the arm of the electronic one-armed bandits. At last count 40 municipalities had banned the machines. Whistler's municipal council was one of the first when it passed a bylaw in December banning VLTs until a referendum is held to gauge community support for gambling here. "I've been working on this issue from the moment I landed in this office April 10," Dosanjh told Pique Newsmagazine. The government is frantically trying to put the finishing touches on a gambling policy which Dosanjh says will be released in "two to six weeks." It looks like the NDP is giving up on its much-criticized plan to introduce 5,000 of the machines in pubs and bars across the province on a trial basis. Meanwhile, Dosanjh is seeking input from gaming supporters and the government may be planning on pulling a fast one on municipalities by installing VLTs in B.C.'s 18 charitable casinos and 47 bingo halls — tying VLTs to charity, rather than beer and pretzels. Charitable gambling is the only form of gaming which is legal in B.C. at this time. Gary Hoskins, executive director with the B.C. Gaming Commission, the government branch which oversees charitable gaming, says the gross revenues for charitable gaming in 1993-94 were $580.1 million, of which the government collected $13.5 million. Charitable gaming includes bingo, casinos and ticket raffles. A crown corporation, B.C. Lottery Corp., looks after lottery ticket revenues. Between lottery ticket sales and charitable gambling the government collects $250 million annually through legal gaming. A report on VLTs by the Attorney General's Co-ordinated Law Enforcement Unit claimed there were 5,000 to 10,000 illegal or "grey" machines supposedly lurking in laundromats and coffee houses in B.C. Various police officials have since disputed the claim. Dosanjh says he cannot confirm or deny the number of grey machines noted in the report. He does say he would be "less than happy" to have to force municipalities to accept VLTs. One thing Dosanjh has not told the rest of B.C. is the government has more of an interest in the future of electronic gaming than just collecting gambling revenues. The CLEU report reveals the provincial government, through the B.C. Lottery Corp., is involved in the development of computer technology that could cash in on the sales of electronic gaming machines if they are legalized. The B.C. Lottery Corp. is a 51-49 per cent partner with Rhode Island-based GTECH Corporation in B.C. Lottotech International Inc. B.C. Lottotech International was incorporated in B.C. in 1987 to develop electronic gaming devices such as electronic bingo and Player Operated Sales Terminals. POSTs are electronic gaming devices which offer games similar to pull-tab tickets and scratch and win lottery tickets, which are available legally in B.C. Instead of scratching paper, a player touches a video screen. Although Dosanjh says the government is planning on introducing VLTs under the auspices of charitable gaming, Hoskins says the B.C. Gaming Commission, the government branch in charge of charitable gaming, has not been informed what department will collect VLT revenues. "It (VLT implementation) will probably be the responsibility of the B.C. Lottery Corp. because that have been involved in the creation of the electronic gaming technology," Hoskins says.

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