A bar owner in Rocky Mountain House says the campaign to return video lottery terminals to the community is over now that residents have voted overwhelmingly to maintain a ban.
In a municipal plebiscite Monday, residents voted by a margin of 874 to 274 to continue a 12-year-old ban on VLTs.
Rookies Lounge owner Brad Christensen, who was among the bar owners pushing to get the ban lifted, said Tuesday morning that continuing the fight would be fruitless.
"The people have spoken, I guess," he said. "I don't think we could have done anything else any better.…People just weren't interested, didn't really care."
Council did not take a position on the issue. But Mayor Jim Bague said Sunday night he was glad the outcome was so definitive.
"I'm happy it was resounding enough that it will put this to bed for a while."
In 1997, residents voted nearly two-to-one to ban VLTs from their community. The move was spearheaded by church leaders who were concerned about gambling addiction and other social problems related to the machines.
But 12 years later, a group of bar owners campaigned to overturn the ban, saying it would increase their revenues and create jobs. They gathered enough signatures on a petition to force the plebiscite.
"There are other smaller communities that have VLTs that are 10 minutes away," said Christensen. "We just wanted to keep the business in Rocky."
6,000 VLTs in Alberta
Len Batterink, a pastor with First Christian Reformed Church, said Tuesday morning the best way to level the playing field is to ban VLTs across Alberta.
"Obviously we are happy to have the town restate its opposition to VLTs," said Batterink. "These are particularly nasty devices. There is a high rate of problem gambling associated with them. So we just don't think it is appropriate that they be operated in the province."
Alberta has 6,000 VLTs in bars and restaurants. The province keeps 85 per cent of the revenue from the machines, bringing in about $700 million a year. The rest goes to the bars or restaurants where the machines are located.