Bad economy means lower video lottery revenues for Alberta government

Tough times are putting the squeeze on Alberta’s take on video lottery terminal revenues this year.

CALGARY — Tough times are putting the squeeze on Alberta’s take on video lottery terminal revenues this year.

And Premier Ed Stelmach’s decision to rescind a steep tax hike on booze has stripped the province of 20 per cent of its expected share of alcohol sales in this fiscal year’s first quarter.

The province’s first quarter budget update shows that while slot machines and lottery ticket revenues held to expectations, its VLT revenue fell by nearly 14 per cent, from an expected $616 million to $532 million.

Christine Wronko, spokeswoman for the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, says fewer people are prepared to gamble when their recessionary reality is roulette enough.

Jarod McGowan of Shuckaluck’s Public Ale House says his VLT revenue is down 25 per cent this year.

He says people used to play the machines all day long, and now it’s really only at night.

“They’re obviously tightening up their budgets — they can’t afford it.”

Money raised through gaming goes into the Alberta Lotteries Fund which benefits activities and infrastructure in areas ranging from sports to the arts.

Wronko said it’s possible the $84 million shortfall from forecast could negatively impact those activities.

The province’s take from liquor taxes in the first quarter fell from $908 million to $728 million — attributed to the rollback of levies imposed last spring that added $2.85 to a bottle of spirits and $1.30 to a dozen beer.