Sheridan casting watchful eye on Atlantic Lottery
P.E.I.'s finance minister said Thursday he supports the Atlantic Lottery Corporation's attempts to boost sagging revenues of about $80 million in the last few years, but would like the corporation to watch its expenses in the region.
The corporation says it needs to find new markets outside Canada to boost profits and gain new customers.
Vice-president Chuck Bridges said running lotteries in other countries, such as Albania, could generate millions of dollars for provincial governments in Atlantic Canada.
He said on P.E.I., profits have dropped from about $17 million in the last three years to what they believe will be about $12 million this year.
Bridges told CBC News profits are dropping due to changes in economy, global competition, demographics in types of games changing, mobile use.
Last year, Atlantic Lottery sent Bridges to the former communist country to explore a business opportunity running the country's lottery system.
The news was revealed following an access-to-information request by Atlantic Business magazine.
"It's part of us protecting Atlantic Lottery and our province that goes back into the shareholders — the province, so they can build hospitals, roads, infrastructure, that sort of thing," Bridges told CBC News.
P.E.I. Finance Minister Wes Sheridan said he wasn't surprised.
Atlantic Lottery had already told him about the opportunity and he sees it as a potential new revenue stream for shareholder provinces like P.E.I.
"These dollars go directly into health, education and transportation and everything else that we pay for, so very important that they stay relevant in the marketplace," Sheridan told CBC News.
Since 2006, P.E.I.'s dividends from Atlantic Lottery have dropped 30 per cent. Over the same period, the corporation's overall expenses have climbed 60 per cent.
While Sheridan supports Atlantic Lottery's new focus on opportunities outside the region, he did express some surprise and concern Thursday about the expenses.
"I would certainly want to have a good look at this and have some due diligence on their numbers, no question."
Meanwhile Atlantic Lottery said it would continue searching the globe for business opportunities as it tries to make up for sagging revenues from traditional lottery games sold in Atlantic Canada.
"We live in a global village, don't we?" said Bridges. "Given the opportunities we see, we will explore all as they come available."
Recently the corporation purchased a $4 million stake in an online gambling website in the United Kingdom called Geosweep.
The corporation hopes to offer the game in Atlantic Canada sometime next year.
It also hopes to make money off players in the U.K. and elsewhere around the globe.
If the gamble pays off, Atlantic Canadians will be the beneficiaries. They'll also be the ones out if it fails.