Critics skeptical of N.S. campaign to prevent gambling addiction

Nova Scotia is introducing a new multi-media campaign to help gamblers identify 'yellow flags' that may indicate they have a gambling problem.

Nova Scotia is betting a new multi-media ad campaign will help prevent younger people from developing serious gambling problems.

But the plan is already drawing fire from anti-gambling advocates who say it misses the main point.

The $445,000 project, rolled out Tuesday by Barry Barnet, the province'shealth promotion minister, involves a series of posters plus TV and radio spots that target 19 to 34-year-old residents. The posterspoint to "yellow-flag moments" in everyday life that are supposed to signal togamblers they may need help.

A website is also part of the package.

On the website, an actor walks you through the problems of gambling, including 15 "most common" yellow flag moments, such as:

  • You find yourself gambling longer than you meant to.
  • You go out alone so you can gamble "in peace."
  • You borrow money to gamble and don't repay it.
  • You use gambling to forget about something that's bothering you.

There is also a "stats" area that discusses the odds.

The site says the odds of winning the $500 top prize ona Video Lottery Terminal, common in the province,areone in 270,000. That means if you pay 50 cents a play, the odds say you would spend an average of $6,750 to win the $500.

Robert Graham, the province's problem gambling manager, says studies show 10.7 per cent of people in the target age group are at risk of becoming problem gamblers. And they are a tough audience.

"They don't want to be preached to and they tend to turn off a lot of different messages," Graham said. "And when people try to market to them they often see through that.

"In putting together this campaign we did some thorough research, talked to people in this group and showed them some different concepts and ideas, so that everything we were doing was based on the reality that they saw."

But not everyone is buying into the ad and internet campaign.

Bernie Walsh, a Nova Scotia anti-gambling activist who credits five suicides in the province to VLT addiction, calls it a stall tactic, adding the province should be looking at more serious moves such as removing bank machines from places that have video lottery terminals, and at banning VLTs entirely.

Nova Scotia has already taken out 800 VLTs across Nova Scotia and has not replaced 200 that were coming to the end of their mechanical life, a move that eliminated about one-third of the terminals at a cost to the province of about $19 million in lost revenue.

But cuts were not made on those at Royal Canadian Legions, not-for-profit establishments, casinos and First Nation reserves.

With files from the Canadian Press