Liberal Leader Brian Gallant is calling for answers on potential lost revenue following a CBC News investigation which found illegal video lottery terminals are operating in bars in the province.
“My first question would be when did they [the government] find out about these machines?” said Gallant.
The CBC News investigation found a dozen illegal VLTs in two bars in the province. Eight of the machines were in The Morgan Pub and Eatery in Richibucto and four were in the Candlepin Entertainment bowling alley in Sussex Corner. CBC Reporter Connell Smith has since observed another four illegal machines in a bar in Moncton. Establishment operators tell CBC News there are many more grey machines out there.
Gallant says the government needs to get a handle on how much revenue is going to the owners of the unsanctioned machines, rather than to the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, which passes all revenue back to the province to help pay for things like roads and health care.
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“Have they known about it for years now and they’re only acting now?” asks Gallant. “That would be a bit of a concern because obviously we would have lost many years of potential revenue going to important services in the province."
Atlantic Lottery's VLTs net about $63,600 per machine annually. It is difficult to know how much profit the illegal machines bring in. If grey machines’ revenues compare with ALC machines, that would mean more than a million dollars a year in unsanctioned gambling profits for just 16 machines.
In an email to CBC News, finance department communications director Brendan Langille said "While it makes sense to assume there is some impact on our revenues, any estimate would only be speculation."
NDP Leader Dominic Cardy said the government has been too slow to enforce gambling laws and regulations.
'It seems like in New Brunswick laws are optional.' - Dominic Cardy, NDP Leader
"It seems like in New Brunswick laws are optional," he said. "Laws have got to mean something.
"And especially in this case where we're talking about the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars to our treasury in a province where we're facing a mounting deficit and debt crisis and we need that money."
Finance Minister Blaine Higgs recently told CBC News the province is taking steps towards enforcement. The province sent letters to businesses with illegal machines warning them to obey the rules. He says they forward information on illegal machines to the RCMP.
“Any concerns that we have any concerns that we’re told about we forward those to the RCMP and they do what they do after that."