VLT machines more common in certain neighborhoods: study

A new study is confirming what many have long suspected about video lottery terminals: they're more plentiful in certain neighborhoods than in others.

And those neighborhoods have several things in common — they contain people considered at high risk of developing gambling addictions.

The study, done by the Montreal public health department, shows that neighbourhoods like Pointe St. Charles, Centre-Sud, Park Extension, Petite-Patrie, St. Michel and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, among others, have higher concentrations of single men, low-income residents, residents who are unemployed, and lacking university degrees.

Study co-author Jean-François Biron says those people are six times more likely to come across a VLT or a Loto-Quebec validation terminal than those in other parts of town.

"It'as not just about poverty," Biron says. "Men are more vulnerable, the unemployed, people who live alone, people on fixed incomes, people without diplomas."

He also suggests some of these neighbourhoods have higher concentrations of homeless shelters and therapy centres for people with gambling addictions.

Biron says Loto-Quebec's announcement of a plan last month to start pulling hundreds of VLTs out of those neighbourhoods where there are higher concentrations of those machines is a good first step, and he hopes his report serves as a reference point for the government.

The plan, announced just before Christmas, calls for the number of VLTs to be cut to under 10,000 within the next two years -- which would mean about 2,000 fewer terminals across the province. It would also use a new formula aimed at spacing out the machines — a maximum of two establishments per 5,000 residents, and a maximum of two VLTs per 1,000 residents.