POLITICS

Manitoba gambling revenues 20 per cent below target: year-end report

10/08/2014 04:11 EDT | Updated 12/08/2014 05:59 EST
WINNIPEG - The Manitoba government's expectations for gambling revenues were off target last year by 20 per cent, or $67.9 million, partly because of a near-record cold winter.

The net income for Manitoba Lotteries for the 2013-14 fiscal year was $278 million — below the $346 million originally forecast in the budget.

The biggest factor, says a spokeswoman for the Crown corporation, was a delay in distributing new video lottery machines, which the province had hoped would provide a big boost in revenue from the previous year.

"Unfortunately, there were delays experienced in the rollout, which is not unusual in a project of this complexity. For example, we procured machines from three different suppliers," Susan Olynik wrote in an email Wednesday.

One of the coldest winters on record also played a role. With fewer people venturing out for entertainment, revenues were lower than expected at VLTs across the province and at the corporation's two casinos in Winnipeg.

The last fiscal year also saw the Crown corporation put $4 million towards the opening of a mini-casino in the city's downtown and owned by the owners of the NHL's Winnipeg Jets.

Lottery ticket sales were down as well — about $100,000 from the previous year. Olynik said that was because there were fewer big jackpots.

"When we have a number of large jackpot winners in the province, the publicity around those wins tends to drive lottery sales up; therefore, revenue increases."

Like other provinces, Manitoba has faced increasing competition from online gambling sites based in other countries. The province launched its own regulated online site last year and admitted that it had some catching up to do.

Olynik said financial results this fiscal year have turned around. A quarterly report covering the three months that ended June 30 shows revenues are up $6 million from the same period a year ago.

While Manitobans were gambling less last year, they appeared to be drinking more. Net revenues at the provincial liquor corporation were $284 million, up $15 million from the previous fiscal year.