Oaken Barrel pub owners honoured for removing VLTs

Ashley Thompson
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GREENWOOD - Oaken Barrel Public House owners Dean Mrkic and Jennifer Delorey are willing to take a chance on a business model that doesn’t revolve around revenue from video lottery terminals (VLTs).

“A lot of businesses use it as a crutch,” said Mrkic.

The duo decided they didn’t want their pub, located in the former Top Hat Tavern building behind the Greenwood Mall, to be one of those businesses.

“This is a new spot where me and Jenn want people to relax, be themselves and be ready for an energetic atmosphere with good food and live music.”

Mrkic used to manage Celtic Corner in Dartmouth, and Delorey worked there. Drawing from experience, they believe running a successful pub is all about giving the community a place to socialize.

“If people can't associate themselves with a local spot to get away and that's their own place to relax and get out of the house, then I feel bad for that community,”said Mrkic.

The Kingston and Greenwood Community Health Board hosted a celebration event at the Oaken Barrel March 22 to commend the owners for voluntarily removing VLTs from the establishment.

“Their awareness around the resulting loss of revenue is a strong show of integrity,” said Dwyer.

VLTs, Dwyer said, can result in serious gambling addictions that have ripple effects throughout the community.

“Those addictions are very hard to treat,” she said, noting that problem gambling can result in income or job loss, marital and family problems, neglect and serious health complications.

Kings Community Action Group on Gambling spokesman Bruce Dienes, a sociologist, warned that people do not know enough about VLTs to properly weigh the risks.

“The psychologists and the engineers who designed the machines recognize that every time you take a risk it releases dopamine to the brain, which triggers the pleasure centers.”

He said some of the lottery terminals are designed to simulate video games that reward players for playing again and again. The one difference, he stressed, is that the chances of winning never increase with a VLT.

“There is nothing you can do to a VLT machine to change the odds. Every single time you push that button it's random chance. You can't beat random chance,” he said.

“We are against the deception.”

Taking a few moments to thank those in attendance for their support, Delorey said VLTs simply did not fit into their business model. She said they have no qualms about VLT players.

“We wanted a friendly environment. We wanted children to be able to come here during the day.”

Their goal, she said, is to keep people coming back for the right reasons – good food, fun times and quality service.

“We love when you leave and leave with a smile on your face.”

Audrey Shields, a problem gambling specialist and addictions services clinician with the Nova Scotia Health Authority, hopes other Annapolis Valley businesses dependent on VLT revenues take notice.

“Our businesses that rely on VLT revenues are very frightened about the idea of them not being there so I think you will be a beacon of hope that there is a


To learn more about resources available in the Annapolis Valley visit http://www.kingscommunityactiongroupongambling.ca/

Fast facts:

  1. Gambling addictions can impact the brain the same way as a substance addiction and some forms of gambling are designed to manipulate and trigger an addiction.
  2. There are varying degrees of harm associated with the different forms of gambling. Video lottery terminals (VLTs) are considered to have a higher level of risk than a 50/50 draw.
  3. About 48 per cent of gambling dollars spent in the province goes into VLTs. In 2008 and 2009, roughly $1.47 billion was wagered on various forms of gambling in Nova Scotia.

Source: http://www.kingscommunityactiongroupongambling.

Organizations: VLT, Kingston and Greenwood Community Health Board, Kings Community Action Group on Gambling Nova Scotia Health Authority

Geographic location: Dartmouth, Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Brian Wilkins
    March 23, 2016 - 16:30

    Congratulations. In addition to enjoying the great food you serve we now like you even more. We will be showing up more often as we consider the VLTs a tax on those who can least afford it.