By Wendy Elliott
It might be easy money, but that doesn’t mean taking funds from VLTs is the right way to go, says a local business.
“Twenty-seven years ago, we decided that VLTs were an easy way to make money, and we stuck to that,” said Tony Bentley of the Kings Arms in Kentville.
And businesses can be profitable without allowing gambling on site, he added.
“We’re still going. There’s the answer.”
The popular pub has changed hands two or three times, but current owners Charlie Hamm and Mike Shaffleburg are equally determined they will never approve VLT machines.
That community-minded attitude won the Kentville eatery a new award. During a ceremony Feb. 8, the inaugural Business Recognition Award for Maintaining a VLT-Free Business was awarded by the Kings Community Action Group on Gambling (KCAGoG).
All three Kings County MLAs, the mayor of Wolfville, county councillors and representatives from health and wellness, addiction services, community health boards, Kentville Police, the RCMP and NSCC human services were on hand for the celebration.
The event also kicked off a VLT-Free Zones campaign.
The Kings Community Action Group on Gambling, which was founded in 2011, is comprised of six volunteers.
“We are not an anti-gambling group,” said Bruce Dienes. “We’re not about any moral issues, we just want to reduce gambling harms in our community.”
Kings North MLA Jim Morton, a former problem gambling specialist, said businesses like the Kings Arms offer a “safe place for people to go to with gambling problems.”
Community policing officer Const. Blair MacMurtery said police see a number of family problems related to gambling.
“It’s big money. We want to get the information out there,” he said. “There’s a lot of merit in trying the fix the situation in our own backyard of Kings County.”
Gambling revenues in this county are estimated at $4 million annually.
Dienes said KCAGoG is targeting VLTs because the machines are designed to be addictive.
He noted that there are additional businesses, like Boston Pizza, who don’t have VLTs, “and they’re doing fine. We want to celebrate these businesses and encourage others.”
KCAGoG board members include Dienes, MacMurtery, Debra Moore, Audrey Shields, Heather Frenette and Michelle Parker.