Lacombe city council has reversed a two-decades-old ban on VLTs.
On Monday, council repealed a 1998 bylaw that banned the popular gambling machines following two plebiscites that narrowly supported the move.
“The repeal of this bylaw shows that council is eager to help our restaurant service industry recover from the ill effects of the pandemic,” said Mayor Grant Creasey in a statement. “Restaurants and bars, if they choose to do so, now have the opportunity to benefit financially from VLTs in their establishments.
“Additionally, while VLTs do not benefit the city directly, the revenues generated do support many of our local community groups and non-profit agencies who play an essential role in Lacombe.”
The decision to repeal the ban came after city officials and political representatives gathered public feedback at the Lacombe Farmers Market and a public hearing held in council chambers.
Coun. Reuben Konnik brought the issue forward last month through a notice of motion. He said that in talking with local residents he heard no opposition to allowing VLTs.
VLTs were removed from Lacombe after a pair of plebiscites were held and a majority of voters narrowly supported removal in both cases.
During the 1998 election, 1,147 voted for removal and 1,132 voted to keep them in Lacombe. After that vote, the town requested that the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission remove the town’s 30 VLTs.
VLTs were introduced in Alberta in 1991 and there are now about 6,000 of the machines in 800 bars and lounges.
When introduced, the gambling machines proved controversial, with nearly 40 communities holding plebiscites on whether to allow them. Ten communities voted to remove them, including Lacombe, Sylvan Lake and Rocky Mountain House in central Alberta. In April 2020, Rocky Mountain House council voted to overturn its ban.
VLTs are still banned in Sylvan Lake, although unsuccessful efforts have been made in recent years to gather support on petitions to lobby town council to revisit the ban.