VLT class action against Atlantic Lottery Corp. gets go-ahead
A court case claiming video lottery terminals (VLTs) are addictive and potentially dangerous has been given the goahead to proceed as a class action against Atlantic Lottery Corp. Inc.
The decision by Newfoundland Supreme Court Justice Alphonsus Faour was made public last week after more than a year’s wait.
Lawyers presented their final statements in arguing the class-action application in September 2015.
Ches Crosbie and Michael Dull represent plaintiffs Douglas Babstock of Mount Pearl and Fred Small of Gander, while Daniel Simmons and Rebecca Marshall, represent the Atlantic Lottery Corp.
In a 52-page written decision, Faour ruled the case met all the requirements under the Class Actions Act, including that there are common issues in the claims of the class.
The action is about problem gambling and the impact on some people who play VLTs, which the Atlantic Lottery Corp. makes available at various commercial establishments throughout the province.
The games at the subject of the action are known as line games, which are modelled after traditional slot machines on the VLT screens.
The legality of the games isn’t the issue in the case.
Babstock and Small claim the Atlantic Lottery Corp. has engaged in deception and misrepresentation in the operation VLTs. They allege the misrepresentation and deception exposes a certain class of individuals to the potential for harm.
They claim the corporation has either deliberately or negligently placed dangerous machines at locations throughout the province.
The plaintiffs’ statement of claim states, “VLTs are a form of continuous electronic gaming which differs from lotteries in that they are electronically programmed to creative cognitive distortions of the perception of winning, which cognitive distortions are intended to keep the consumer engaged and losing money.
“VLTs are inherently deceptive, inherently addictive and inherently dangerous when used as intended.”
The corporation’s lawyers argued that if people believe they have been harmed, their cases should be heard on an individual basis.
But Faour said evidence presented at the hearing showed there was some “basis in fact” to support the plaintiffs’ allegations.
The judge noted the Atlantic Lottery Corp. and third parties (shareholders, suppliers of video lottery machines and software) made arguments that don’t address what the plaintiffs have proposed.
“For example, they continually expressed the need to have individual assessments when dealing with the common issues, proof of individual misrepresentation on the issues which rest on deception and proof of individuals harm,” Faour said.
“The plaintiffs, on the other hand, have asserted a claim which is not based on individual proof or individual harm. In fact, they have denied any individual injury or harm as a basis for the claim.
“They rest on allegations of misrepresentation and deception in the offering of games which they say may cause harm.
“The plaintiffs have persuaded me that their conceptualization of this case is workable and can be considered on the merits of the case as framed.”
An Atlantic Lottery Corp. video lottery terminal in St. John’s in March 2014.