Residents to vote in VLT referendum

By Gaven Crites

Fifteen years later, people in the Northern Village of Buffalo Narrows will have another say on the fate of video lottery terminals in their community.
In 1998, the community voted to have them removed. Next month, on April 24, a plebiscite will be held on the issue, with the final decision left in the hands of council.
Mayor Estelle Laliberte has heard mixed opinions from the public.
“Some say it’s about time and some are strongly against it,” she said. “Some figure we have enough issues with addiction and don’t want to add to it. We’re leaving the decision to the people and going from there.”
Gerald Tinker, a member of council and owner of the Pelican Tavern, said he is approached regularly by patrons and people touring the area about adding VLTs to his bar, so he brought the issue to council.
“Any legal business you bring to Buffalo Narrows is a bonus for the community,” he said. “We have to get people to stop in Buffalo Narrows. We get a lot of traffic going through. They go to Ile-a-la Crosse, Beauval, Meadow Lake and Prince Albert, to play VLTs. We just need more things in Buffalo Narrows in order for people to stop.”
Because of a conflict of interest on the matter, Tinker has recused himself from any proceedings. With respect to any community push back Tinker has received, he said it’s impossible to please everybody.
“When the (VLTs) were voted out, we didn’t even have the Internet,” he said. “Now you can gamble on your iPhone if you like. It’s just about socializing – that’s what we’re into.”
Buffalo Narrows resident and former mayor Bobby Woods has come out against the re-introduction of VLTs.
“It took us a decade to really get a handle on combating social problems in the community,” Woods said. “For the brief time they were introduced, there was an outcry from the community because there were some people who would sit there and spend all their money on these machines instead of using their earnings to provide for their families.”
Woods said previous bar owners were turned down in the past when they requested a licence for VLTs.
Any business in the Northern Administration District needs community approval to introduce VLTs.
David Morris, communications manager for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA), said the SLGA has no role in the advisory-type referendum.
“We’ll respect whatever decision Buffalo Narrows makes,” Morris said.

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