Buffalo Narrows says ‘no’ to VLTs

By Gaven Crites

The nays have it.
On April 24, the Northern Village of Buffalo Narrows voted to maintain a prohibition on video lottery terminals in the community after a motion was tabled by a local bar owner looking to reintroduce the machines following a close to 15-year ban.
A total of 244 ballots were cast, 184 against, 59 for and one with no marking.
Gerald Tinker, owner of the Pelican Tavern, brought the initiative forward because he thought he had the community’s support.
“That’s why we brought it to this stage,” Tinker said. “The youth vote never came out.”
As a member of council, Tinker had to recuse himself from all proceedings because of a conflict of interest. Now, it’s back to business as usual.
“It’s just another hurdle, that’s all,” he added.
Bobby Woods, a resident and former mayor of the northern village, has been a vocal critic of the proposal since it was brought to council.
“I’m proud of the people of Buffalo Narrows for taking the initiative to look at this from a healthy perspective,” Woods said. “They kept the community’s health in mind first and foremost. This decision will help save us from further social problems. I’m happy.”
Woods added, although the turnout was perhaps smaller than expected, the result was overwhelming.
“Right now, our community is not ready for this,” he said. “I know there will be people disappointed with me and with this result, but that’s OK. People can agree to disagree.”
The divisiveness of the issue is not lost on former resident Leonard Montgrand, organizer of the original plebiscite to have the gaming terminals banned in the first place.
“At that time, because there was no other form of entertainment or gambling, there was a lot of people gambling, like myself, spending a lot of money,” Montgrand said.
Now a La Loche resident, Montgrand still calls Buffalo Narrows his hometown.
“In hindsight, it was a good thing,” he said. “Buffalo wasn’t ready for it back then. But, nowadays, I personally think VLTs are not going to destroy a community because communities have learned. They’ve progressed and grown and there are other forms of electronic gambling.”
Montgrand was surprised by the vote, both by the relatively small turnout and the disparity with respect to the results.
“I thought they would vote them back in this year,” he said. “But, they still maintain a sense of responsibility in terms of gambling. I know the community works hard on other social issues and they have a good strong community.”
Officially, mayor and council had final say on the issue at their regular meeting held yesterday (April 29).

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