The Cape Breton company behind a recently-abandoned program designed to help non-problem gamblers from becoming addicted to video lottery terminals says it has no idea where the Nova Scotia government got its figures on how much the My-Play System cost.
The My-Play System was first introduced by the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation in 2010 to prevent non-problem gamblers from becoming addicted to VLTs. It became mandatory on all Nova Scotia VLTs in April 2012.
The program gives players information about their current and past VLT activity, allowing them to set a spending limit, to stop play immediately and also to set a time limit.
"I think it's shocking to begin with. The province let us know about 25 minutes before the press release that they were going to remove responsible gaming technology from the field," John Xidos, president of developer Techlink Entertainment, told CBC's Information Morning.
Last week, a spokesperson for Nova Scotia's Provincial Lotteries and Casino Corporation said the total cost of the My-Play System was $19.5 million, $13.1 million of which was on capital costs. The remainder was spent on developing and operating the system.
'You can wear the seatbelt, but really it's not going to help you in the end if you're not using it properly.' - John Xidos
"I think it's far-fetched. I don't know where it comes from. I don't understand it," Xidos says.
He says the total system cost to Techlink was $8.5 million, with $7.5 million paid once the system was deployed in 2010.
Xidos says maintenance and upgrades cost $200,000 per year since then.
"I don't know if [the $19.5 million figure] is intertwined with advertising or other things that they do. Who knows," he says.
The government says it pulled the plug on My-Play because most users weren't using the technology for its intended purpose.
"What I think everybody needs to realize is Nova Scotia, of the four Atlantic regions, was the only region that had responsible gaming technology enforced. And of all four provinces revenue was only down in Nova Scotia, by 25 per cent," says Xidos.
He says the province is saving $200,000 by not paying Techlink maintenance fees.
Xidos says the system's intentions started to fall apart when the province switched to a light-enrolment system, a temporary card that allowed people to play without recording their name or historical data.
"There were upwards of three million cards in the field. There is less than a million Nova Scotians," said Xidos. "I can tell you what's happening, they were using the cards and after they were finished they were throwing them out."
"The analogy is almost like having a car with a seat belt, which was the responsible gaming tool, but no speedometer, no speed bumps and no speed limits. You can wear the seat belt, but really it's not going to help you in the end if you're not using it properly."
The government says the My-Play System was responsible for a $47.5-million drop in VLT revenue between 2012 and 2014.
Xidos says he got calls from people who thanked him for curbing their family members' gambling addictions
"There were people using it the right way because revenue was declining," he says.
He says he believes it would have worked if the government implemented a system with full enrolment and rewards it would have worked.
Xidos says his company even offered the province an online gambling model, but the government didn't want it.