By J.W. Schnarr
For the Sunny South News
The Town of Coaldale overwhelmingly supports a return of VLTs to the community.
That was the result of a survey taken at the end of 2016 to measure interest in allowing the gambling machines in some coaldale businesses after a nearly 20-year ban.
Administration presented council with the results during a regular meeting held last Tuesday.
The survey results included two questions:
If the next civic election asks a question with only two options, (1) allow Video Lottery Terminals, commonly known as VLTs in Coaldale or (2) prohibit Video Lottery Terminals, commonly known as VLTs from Coaldale, which option would you vote for?
The results showed 69 per cent of respondents indicated they would vote to allow VLTs in Coaldale; while 20 per cent of respondents indicated they would vote to prohibit VLTs in Coaldale; and 12 per cent said they weren’t sure or were undecided.
The second question, which was more general in order to gauge the overall feelings of residents toward VLTs in the community, asked:
If Coaldale brought back VLTs in its community, would you be in favour or opposed to that decision?
The results showed 75 per cent would be in favour, while 22 per cent said they would be opposed, and three per cent said they were unsure or undecided.
The survey was conducted by Mainstreet Research. It included a random sample of 710 Town of Coaldale residents by telephone with a mixture of landlines and cellphones. The margin of error in the survey was +/- 3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Only adult residents who were Canadian residents were eligible to participate. The survey tracked independent variables, including age and gender, in order to compare and contrast the composition of respondents compared to recent census data in an effort to ensure the sampling was a realistic representation of the town’s population.
Back in November, council heard from a delegation of local business owners who explained how they had been hurt over the years by the ban.
Thirty-six communities across Alberta held plebiscites on the VLT issue on Oct. 19, 1998. Only the towns of Stony Plain, Lacombe, Coaldale, Cardston, Canmore, the County of Lethbridge and M.D. of Opportunity rejected VLTs.
According to the Alberta Lottery Fund, which is the government share of net proceeds from VLTs, casino gaming terminals, electronic bingo and ticket lotteries, 2015 budget estimates were nearly $1.5 billion — $504 million coming from VLTs. The funds are then used to fund infrastructure projects, school and health facility construction, post-secondary facility construction, and addiction prevention and treatment programs.
Volunteer, public and community-based initiatives include community facilities, libraries and museums, sports and athletic events, agricultural societies, arts and culture groups, wildlife and conservation projects, public athletic facilities, seniors groups, and recreation, tourism and historical resources.
Following a brief discussion, council passed a motion to accept the survey for information.
It will now be up to council to decide where it wants to go with the decision to end the ban on VLTs in the community.