VLTs turning casual gamblers into addicts -- study

More than two-thirds of the VLT-addicts surveyed by a provincial government agency say they didn't have a gambling problem until they tried video lottery terminals.

The study, released Friday by the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission, surveyed 84 problem VLT gamblers in 1996.

Most said they had gambled before, but more than two-thirds said VLTs led them to seek treatment.

"From the treatment side, what we see is the addictiveness of the VLTs," said Conservative MLA Jocelyn Burgener who chairs AADAC.

Gambling addiction and the lives it destroys

It's been 2 1/2 years since her son Trevor killed himself and Phyllis Vineberg is only now beginning to come to terms with what happened.

Gambling killed her son. He was an addict to the crack-cocaine of the gambling world - video lottery terminals, the flashy kind you see in bars. He had tried to beat the addiction several times during the nine years he played VLTs.

Suicide blamed on VLT addiction

The mother of a Calgary man who jumped from the 12th floor of a downtown apartment tower in July blames his death on an addiction to video lottery terminals.

On the day he died, Wesley Robert Larratt, 27, gambled away more than $600. And his mother, Donna Brazeau of Sorrento, B.C., estimates her son lost nearly $5,000 in the last six weeks of his life.

Brazeau wants people to know what gambling addictions can do.

"I just feel the public needs to be more aware about this sort of stuff," she said.

VLT gambling comes with high societal cost

The impetus for this request is that gambling addiction, especially pertaining to VLTs, is becoming a significant and growing health problem. As a result of promotion by government the most powerful and influential organization in society gambling addiction may one day equal social and health problems associated with alcohol abuse.

Increased accessibility and promotion of gambling cause a rapid increase in the incidence of addiction. In Alberta, with the longest history of gambling promotion, almost nine per cent of adults are considered problem gamblers.

An emotional addiction (Video lottery terminals)

The introduction of video lottery terminals (VLTs) to Ontario this fall has generated mixed emotions. The predicted windfall for the government ranges from $260 million to $550 million a year. Proceeds will also go to charities and site owners, and two per cent of government revenues are slated to fund gambling addiction prevention, treatment and research. But in western provinces, VLTs account for the majority of problems among people in treatment for compulsive gambling.

Here, four people with VLT addictions describe how their problems began. All names have been changed