Farewell to Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, that is.
The Crown corporation responsible for the business of gaming in Nova Scotia is being absorbed, along with the province’s municipal finance corp., by the Department of Finance and Treasury Board.
While NSG will be no more, its work will continue under the umbrella of the finance department.
Premier Tim Houston’s government announced the shift as part of a massive overhaul following a review of 20 Crown agencies. Changes also include consolidating the province’s five economic development and infrastructure operations into two new Crown corporations.
Nova Scotia Gaming’s work “business as usual” during transition
“The Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and its staff do important work to ensure Nova Scotia has a well-regulated, socially responsible gaming industry,” said Gary Andrea, a Department of Finance spokesperson, in an email to PlayCanada.
“As part of government’s review of crown corporations, the Gaming Corporation’s operations and staff will integrate into the Department of Finance and Treasury Board. This change will address duplication, improve efficiency, and bring Nova Scotia in line with other Atlantic provinces. (Nova Scotia is the only Atlantic province that has an agency separate from government tasked with regulating gaming).”
Governed by the provincial Gaming Control Act, NSG focuses on building an economically sustainable and socially responsible gambling industry.
To do that, NSG regulates and oversees all forms of gambling, including ticket lotteries, video lotteries, casinos and sports betting.
However, NSG’s operators, Atlantic Lottery Corp. and Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, handle day-to-day operations. ALC is responsible for ticket and video lottery and online gaming (including sports betting). GCGC owns and operates Casino Nova Scotia, with locations in Halifax and Sydney.
And, for now, it’s “business as usual” for NSG, said Andrea.
“Integrating Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation’s operations and staff into the Department of Finance and Treasury Board will be a transition, with legislative changes to take place this Fall and the transition to be completed by the end of 2022. The work of Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, including responsible gaming initiatives and community support programs like Support4Sport and Support4Culture, will continue to be delivered as they have been.”
Currently, there are no plans to open the market to private operators, as occurred with the Ontario online casino and sports betting market.
However, ALC recently (and quietly) launched online casino gaming in the province. The last of the Atlantic provinces to introduce the option.
Premier Houston critiqued for installing “friends” at helm of new corps
The changes to Nova Scotia’s crown corps are not without controversy. Premier Houston admitted “personal friends” will oversee the new entities. At least temporarily.
Until the new corps get CEOs, Tom Hickey at Invest Nova Scotia and Wayne Crawley at Build Nova Scotia will lead decision-making as interim executive chairs.
Houston identified Crawley and Hickey from a short list of candidates, he said. Each will earn $1,500 daily, up to $18,000 monthly.
“I’ve been kind of a secret admirer, I guess, of theirs for quite a long time,” he said, adding both are well-known in the local business community and as philanthropists.
“They’re personal friends of mine. I’ve known them for a long time. They’ve very, very competent people, and I have tremendous faith in their abilities.”
NDP leader Claudia Chender said the timing is “strange” and that the premier appointing friends “inspires no confidence.”
Fred Tilley, the Liberal critic for economic development, agreed.
Tilly is concerned consolidating power and dismantling boards amounts to less transparency. He noted a similar move Houston made last year, firing the CEO and board of the provincial health authority.
Tilley said to reporters:
“Crown corporations being arm’s length from government and moving that to centralized seems to be a theme for this government.”
Despite assertions of “business as usual,” the true impact of these changes on Nova Scotians will only come to light with time.