B.C. Lottery Corp. sued over ‘addictive’ video slots

A proposed class-action lawsuit has been filed against the B.C. Lottery Corp. and the provincial government over the operation of allegedly “deceptive, addictive and dangerous” video slots.

The lawsuit, filed by proposed representative plaintiff Corina Riesebos of Kelowna, defines video slots as electronic slot machines used throughout the province at casinos and community gaming centres and otherwise known as “video lottery terminals” and “electronic gambling devices”.

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During the games, a user can bet on the outcome of a line game displayed using symbols on a screen.

“Video slots are inherently deceptive, inherently addictive and inherently dangerous when used as intended,” claims the lawsuit.

“They are a form of continuous gaming which differs from traditional mechanical slot machines, lotteries and other games of chance in that they are electronically programmed to create cognitive distortions of the perception of winning, which cognitive distortions are intended to keep the consumer engaged and losing money.”

The notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court says that unlike other regulated gambling games, video slots have hidden odds of winning and users are left guessing or inaccurately presuming their chances of winning any and all prizes.

“The difficulty of figuring out the odds is augmented by variable prize structures and the resulting volatility of the games that makes it impossible for the user to determine, with any accuracy, the true odds of winning during any given play session.”

The lawsuit says that Riesebos began playing video slots line games 20 years ago and has played them in B.C. since 2015.

The proposed members of the class-action are anyone who paid to play line games on video slots in B.C. from Feb. 7, 2018 onwards.

The BCLC is responsible for the operation, distribution, deployment and supervision of slots that are run through operational service contracts with private-sector service providers, including 15 casinos, two racecourse casinos and 18 community gaming centres, says the lawsuit.

“Use of the video slots as intended resulted in the plaintiff and the class suffering economic losses, emotional distress and mental anguish, and other expected harms flowing from these losses and injuries, such as addiction, dependency, self-harm and/or suicide,” it says.

An unusual feature of the lawsuit is that it alleges that the authorization of the video slots is in contravention of the Criminal Code.

“The video slots described herein are so programmed, fixed and manipulative that they do not fit any reasonable definition of ‘slot machine’ or ‘fair game of chance’ and do not form part of a valid ‘lottery scheme,’ as defined in section 207 of the Criminal Code,” says the lawsuit.

The suit adds, however, that the plaintiff is not seeking a conviction of the defendants on a criminal standard of proof, only a finding that their conduct is in contravention of the lottery schemes authorized under the Criminal Code.

The lawsuit seeks a number of things, including an accounting of the profits of the video slots and a “disgorgement” of some of those of profits, as well as $1 million in punitive damages.

“BCLC cannot comment on this matter as it is currently before the Supreme Court of British Columbia,” says a statement from lottery officials.

“BCLC will be filing a response to the notice of civil claim.”

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