The Progressive Conservative government has directed Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Corp. to give veterans groups a greater share of VLT revenues — even as it's paused other gaming decisions pending the launch of a comprehensive review of the industry.
Premier Brian Pallister announced Thursday veterans groups who operate VLTs will get 30 per cent instead of 25 per cent of revenues, beginning immediately.
There are currently 429 VLTs at 58 sites operated by the Royal Canadian Legion and Army, Navy, Air Force Veterans of Canada (ANAVETS). There are a total of 6,703 VLTs in Manitoba.
It's expected the increased take granted to these groups will boost their total video lottery terminal revenues by $600,000 a year.
Pallister's announcement was warmly received by veterans on hand Thursday at the legion on Maxwell King Drive.
Fred Wilson, the branch's president, said the added revenue will make it a little bit easier to operate facilities.
"They generate substantial revenue," he said of the eight VLTs at his branch, "and this will just add to it."
The Pallister government announced a pause on any further expansion of gaming in Manitoba last fall, pending a review of the province's gaming strategy.
A year later, the review has yet to be launched, although Pallister said Thursday the government is now in the process of naming a panel.
Meanwhile, the government has resisted demands by First Nations to build a casino in or adjacent to Winnipeg, and it has put the kibosh on plans by MLL to spruce up its Club Regent Casino.
Pallister said Thursday the study, which he said would be launched "very soon," could take a year or more to complete.
"This is a big, important review for our province. I wouldn't like to put a firm end date on it. I would say (there is) at least a year of work here," he said. "Manitoba is the most dependent of all provinces on gaming revenue to pay for things like health care, and so it is a really important thing to get this right."
The review will examine all aspects of gaming, including casinos, VLTs, lotteries, and online gambling, the premier said.
The portion of revenues each group that operates VLTs keeps will be part of the review's mandate, he said.
The premier described his announcement to increase the cut to veterans groups as an interim measure. Pallister said he would not prejudge the review panel's work.
"We want this increase to go to the legions and the veterans organizations now, because we recognize their contribution. And we want to respect that," he said.
Meanwhile, Pallister promised to introduce legislation that would exempt veterans organizations from paying municipal property tax. Many municipalities already exempt such groups, but they would now be required to do so.
Pallister also announced the province is now taking applications from groups looking for help in preserving and maintaining military memorials in Manitoba.
The government announced the Military Memorial Conservation grant program in May. It's expected to pay out about $100,000 a year.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.