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Lottery Information

Video Lottery Terminal

A Video Lottery Terminal or VLT is a gambling machine that allows gamblers to bet on the outcome of a video game.

A VLT is similar to a slot machine, except that it is connected to a centralized computer system that determines the outcome of each wager using a random number generator. Although the outcome of each wager is random, VLT operators are able to program in advance the total amount and number of payouts that its central computer system will allow at its connected VLTs. In this manner, VLTs can be thought of as computerized scratch-off lottery tickets.


VLTs were introduced by Canadian provinces in the early 1990s, and as of 2005 all provinces permit VLTs due to the massive revenues they generate, except British Columbia and Ontario. Ontario has recentlly passed legislation that could allow VLTs in the near future, however. VLTs are located in licenced establishments that are not accessible to minors.

The prevalence of VLTs in Canada has prompted criticism both domestically and abroad. VLTs are claimed to be the crack cocaine of gambling because of their ability to cause gambling addictions for significant segment of the population. Some critics contend that the massive social costs brought on by VLTs actually cause the provinces to lose a greater sum than is generated by the machines. VLTs are accepted by the majority of the Canadian population however because any harm associated with VLTs is theoretically isolated with the abuser. The attitude being "Live and Let Live."

The payouts offered by VLTs are invariably poor. For example, in Las Vegas most slot machines offer a theoretical payout of approximately 98 cents for every dollar they take in (98%). By contrast, Canadian VLTs pay out 74% of their intake, on average. This varies by province - in Saskatchewan, the average payout is 53%.

United States

South Dakota became, on October 16, 1989, the first U.S. State to legalize VLTs. In a unique arrangement with private industry, the machines are owned by private companies but monitored by the South Dakota Lottery via a centralized computer system that assures the integrity of the games. The state imposes a substantial tax on the Net Income (Gross Income minus any player winnings) of the games. Beginning in 1992, several attempts have been made to repeal South Dakota's video lottery. Most recently, in May 2006, petitions were filed containing over 21,000 signatures in order to place the issue on the November ballot.

In 1990, West Virginia introduced the concept of racinos when it allowed MTR Gaming Group to add VLTs to Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort in Chester.

Other states that have legalized video lottery are Oregon, Louisiana, West Virginia, and Montana. It should be noted, however, that while it's common to call all these games 'video lottery,' Louisiana's games are not part of the Louisiana Lottery. Instead they are regulated by an appointed Louisiana Gaming Control Board. The Louisiana State Police are charged with enforcing the official rules and regulations. As in South Dakota, the games are privately owned, but monitored by a state owned central computer system.

Some U.S. States do not allow VLTs and those that do have attracted the same criticism the Canadian provinces have. However, some non-players have expressed tolerance for the machines.

Other terminology

In certain jurisdictions, VLTs are known as Video Gaming Devices (VGD) or Video Slot Machines. Most VLTs are multi-game devices, allowing the players to select, from an on-screen menu, the game(s) they wish to play. They are also known as poker machines and fruit machines in some areas.

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