The owner of Hazard County Bar and Grill, Jacqueline Izat, spoke to town council recently about reintroducing video lottery terminals to Sylvan Lake.
The town voted to ban VLTs in a plebiscite in 1997. The plebiscite in question was “Should the Minister Responsible for Gaming and Lotteries ban video lottery terminals from the Town of Sylvan Lake.”
There was a very low turn out for the vote, with only 526 people voting on the issue. The vote to get rid of VLTs passed by only 10 votes, with 268 votes in favour of banning the machines.
“The vote in 1997 won by only 10 votes. I think it is time to revisit this issue, that small of a margin is really something to consider,” said Izat.
Since 1997 there has been one petition, in 2016, to try and reintroduce the terminals, however it failed to meet the requirements.
Not having enough signatures, lack of witnesses and failing to hand the petition in to the town 60 days after the first signature was given were a few reasons.
Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Sylvan Lake Betty Osmond says the petition should have been clear about what was being asked. It should have requested Council hold a plebiscite.
“The wording on the petition needs to be clear on what is being asked,” said Osmond, who suggested having a lawyer draw up the statement for the petition.
Izat says she wants to incorporate VLTs into her business because people are asking for them but she is sending them away to other communities.
She says she is seeing money being spent elsewhere, when it could be spent in Sylvan Lake.
“We are asked if we have the machines and we have to tell them to go to Bentley or Red Deer. There they spend their money not only on the machines but eating, drinking too,” said Izat.
This is the main concern of the petition passed around in 2016, which stated the need to “keep resident spending at home and attract more visitors.”
Osmond said she is willing to work with Izat to ensure her petition is put together properly.
The petition must hold a minimum of 1,431 names, all of which must be Sylvan Lake residents.
Originally Izat hoped to have the plebiscite in conjunction with the civil election, however there wasn’t enough time to put it on the ballot, according to Osmond.
“There wouldn’t have been enough time before the election and the advance polls to let people know it was there,” said Osmond.
Because of the 1997 plebiscite, it is likely any comment of the topic to the Alberta Gaming and Lotteries Commission (AGLC) will be guided by the previous vote.
Town Council wants to make sure the issue is looked at carefully and electoral rules are followed. If the petition is successful Town Council will approach the next step to holding a plebiscite on reintroducing VLTs.