VLT class ac­tion against At­lantic Lot­tery Corp. gets go-ahead

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY ROSIE MULLALEY TC ME­DIA The Tele­gram

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.”

TC ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

An At­lantic Lot­tery Corp. video lot­tery ter­mi­nal in St. John’s in March 2014.

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