The Future of PEI is up for Grabs

The future of gambling on Prince Edward Island is currently as predictable as the date and hour of day/night that Planet Earth will cease to exist. Troy Media spokesman Andy Walker claims that fresh worries have arisen over a substantial investment in gaming made by Atlantic Lottery Corporation. Owned by Prince Edward Island and the other Atlantic Canadian provinces, this company’s overarching mission is to monitor provincial gambling operations and guarantee that all revenues are deposited into the appropriate government coffers. The investment of $4 million by ALC on behalf of PEI with Roboreous, a UK-based creator of an online gaming platform, is the source of the worry re-stated by Andy Walker. Island law limits gambling to authorized establishments and allows for the replacement of broken slot machines only.

Currently, Prince Edward Island is home to 40 bars that offer lottery game play stations, 2 casinos with slot machines, and 2 racinos,

which are horse tracks with slot machines. The province of Prince Edward Island stands to gain $11 million in lottery revenue in 2012–2013, but Finance Minister Wes Sheridan seems to be rethinking his position on introducing a new online gambling game in light of recent ATC activity. Roboreous’s GeoSweep is supposed to have certain particular features tailored to the tastes of Atlantic Canadian players. A Google map of Atlantic Canada will be featured in GeoSweep, with tiny squares standing in for the region’s 2,300,000+ residences, commercial establishments, educational institutions, and other locations. Any number of squares can be claimed by a player for a monthly cost of $7.50. Each day, one square, owned or unowned, will be selected at random by a computer and declared the daily winner. The owner will receive $1,000 if this is the case. The $500 will go to the owner of the adjacent square. Every so often, the GeoSweep game will dangle a $250,000 reward in front of the potential owner of a computer-selected square. Since the algorithm has yet to determine a winning square that is not already claimed, no one has yet been declared the winner.

Without preventative interventions, PEIslanders, in the opinion of FM Sheridan, are at high risk for developing gambling addiction.

Peter McKenna, a professor of political studies at the University of Prince Edward Island, shares FM Sheridan’s concern for the social and economic well-being of Islanders. Sheridan and McKenna agree that the government should stay out of the way of gaming limitations now in place in PEI since doing so could be misunderstood as an endorsement of gaming. Sheridan claims that while lottery profits dropped by $3 million in 2011 from the previous year’s $14.7 million profit, the incidence of gambling addiction rose during that time. The ambition of Atlantic Lottery Corporation to move its headquarters from New Brunswick to PEI significantly complicates Sheridan’s position on the broader gaming future of PEI. This part of the ALC proposal would need support from the four provinces in order to move forward. Even though GeoSweep’s earnings are proportional to the number of squares in play, ALC relocation would result in PEI receiving all of the earnings. From a different angle, negotiations between FM Sheridan and the Mi’kmaq Confederacy, a Native American band based on PEI, might determine the future of gaming on the island.

Mi’kmaq’s plan for Prince Edward Island includes measures to regulate offshore gaming sites that earn an estimated $50,000 annually from residents of PEI. The Mi’kmaq plan, on the other hand, asks to be given federal authority over gambling sites that can be accessed from anywhere in Canada. This part of the proposal would need approval from a simple majority of provinces, but it would put the Mi’kmaq Confederacy and PEI in a position to split the proceeds from gambling across the country. Many Canadians see the Mi’kmaq plan as serving the interests of FM Sheridan and PEIslanders politically, given that the provinces of British Columbia, Quebec, and Ontario already have in-province procedures in place for the control of the use of gaming websites. Despite Newfoundland’s decision to withdraw from the Atlantic Lottery Corporation proposal, Nova Scotia Premier David Dexter has signed an executive order prohibiting online gambling in the province.

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