Manitoba's hotel industry is applauding the provincial government's move to remove a long-standing moratorium on additional video lottery terminals (VLTs).
Under existing legislation, hotels and bars in Manitoba could maintain 35 VLTs, but now some sites will be eligible to have as many as 40 machines.
In the latest budget, government officials made provisions to add VLTs to "high-performing commercial sites" as well as higher performing First Nation sites.
That means the number of VLTs across the province could increase by 500. Manitoba currently has about 5,600 terminals.
"We've heard from site holders that there is a demand from the public for additional machines," Steve Ashton, the minister responsible for Manitoba Lotteries, said Monday.
Jim Baker, president of the Manitoba Hotel Association, says his members have been lobbying to have the rules changed.
"The last time there was new machines installed, there was indeed a spike in revenue," Baker told CBC News on Monday.
"I don't anticipate [that], and the experience right now doesn't show anything near that kind of a spike. But indeed the network had to be revitalized, and hopes are that there will be at least a maintaining of the revenue stream."
In November 1993, the province put a moratorium on the expansion of its VLT program.
NDP government officials have previously been critical of adding VLTs. In 1996, former NDP cabinet minister Larry Desjardins told reporters that "VLTs are the crack-cocaine of gambling."
Heather Mitchell of the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba says she and others who work with gambling addicts question the province's latest move.
"I think it would be logical to recognize that increased access can lead to increased problems," she said.
Current government officials maintain that two per cent of profits from liquor and lotteries goes towards responsible gaming and consumption initiatives.
Officials will speak with business and hotel owners about where the new VLTs will be allocated.