A gambling addiction expert is questioning the decision to bring a new game of chance to bars and pubs in Nova Scotia and P.E.I., saying the new "low-risk" betting game could be dangerously addictive.

The Atlantic Lottery Corporation plans to launch electronic keno in 200 bars and restaurants in the two provinces in March. In the game, patrons buy the keno tickets at the bar, with the winning number displayed on the screen minutes later.

A representative from the Atlantic Lottery Corporation said draws will be held every five minutes from noon until midnight, with players limited to maximum bets of $10 per draw, but there will be no limit on the amount gamblers can spend in a day.

Elizabeth Stephen, a problem-gambling counsellor with the Capital District Health Authority in Halifax, told CBC News she was disappointed to learn electronic keno would be introduced.

"I was quite dismayed, I saw this as another potential problem, putting my clients at risk, and just in principal, any kind of gambling product that is suddenly going to be available at much shorter intervals we know increases the risk," Stephen said. "It increases risk and we would probably want to challenge this idea that it's only low risk."

The Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, the Crown corporation responsible for gaming in the province, had studied multi-draw electronic keno in the past. However, in 2007, it said Nova Scotia would not adopt the game because it attracts high-risk players.

Corporation spokeswoman Krista Grant told CBC News that the version of the electronic game about to be introduced is a different version than the one originally rejected by the corporation in 2007.

"That's the old game, so that's like comparing apples to oranges, and that's why we redesigned the game," Grant said. "The Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation makes evidence-based decisions, and our priority is to run a safe, regulated, responsible gambling industry."

Maximum wager $10 for new game

According to the NSGC, the keno game the Atlantic Lottery Corporation is rolling out in March will have lower stakes and players will be required to take more breaks while playing.

Krista Pringle, also a spokeswoman with the NSGC, said several measures will be taken to ensure gamblers don't get hooked on keno.

"There is a limit to the maximum wager per draw which is $10, whereas generally the industry standard is $20," Pringle said. "This game is considered progressive by industry standards and these responsible gambling characteristics will help minimize risk and excessive play while maintaining the games' entertainment value to the patrons."

Pringle also said the game will be shut down for 10 minutes every hour.

Meanwhile, Stephen said the keno game is more dangerous to people with gambling addictions than the corporation believes.

"This is a dangerous product to be out there, a high-risk product, and so maybe it shouldn't be launched without consultation," Stephen said.

Corrections

  • The quote regarding the redesign of the electronic game was given by Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation spokeswoman Krista Grant, not Krista Pringle as was originally reported.
    Feb 23, 2009 2:55 PM AT