Hitting the Jackpot Against the Lotto in Alberta

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It was the “holy rollers” versus the “high rollers” in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, and the holy rollers won.

The battle was over whether video lottery terminals (VLTs) should be allowed in the town’s bars and pubs.

Rev. Leonard Batterink of First Christian Reformed Church in Rocky Mountain House, together with other local clergy and their congregations, started a quiet campaign for the “no” side and came out the winners with 600 votes more than the “yes” campaign.

“Between a fifth and a quarter of players admit to serious overuse,” said Batterink. “It is inappropriate for a provincial agency to be operating VLTs when the government should be guarding the welfare of the public.”

Batterink said he recognizes that charities benefit from gaming in Alberta but said supporting charity “has to be done in a cleaner way than this.”

 There are 6,000 VLTs scattered around Alberta, and this referendum affects only the town of Rocky Mountain House.

“The Christian Reformed community was quite keen on the issue,” said Batterink. “It’s a very small victory. We’d love to think that this triggers a larger discussion about VLTs and their use as revenue-generators for the government. But I fear that the government and the Liquor and Gaming Commission will hope for the issue to blow away. Nevertheless, in God’s kingdom, the tiny mustard seed grows into something really big. So we’ll see.”

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