05/07/2012 03:37 EDT | Updated 07/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Nova Scotia to fold gambling management agency into government department

HALIFAX - Managing gambling in Nova Scotia would become a direct government responsibility under proposed changes to the province's Gaming Control Act announced Monday.

Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister David Wilson said the change would see the Nova Scotia Gaming Corp. become a division within his department as promised in the government's gambling strategy last year.

Wilson said the change would give the government better oversight of the corporation's activities and could result in some savings, although he couldn't give a precise figure.

Renamed the Nova Scotia Provincial Lotteries and Casino Corp., the body would have a new board comprised of senior deputy ministers from government departments such as Health and Finance.

"We're trying to ensure that all those individuals (departments) who are affected by gaming policy are able to be at the table," said Wilson.

He said the move is about creating accountability within the government for gambling policies.

Wilson said he didn't foresee cutting all of the 17 workers currently employed by the Nova Scotia Gaming Corp., but added the government would look for savings as it reorganized the corporation's structure.

"We'll be working with the board to see what the makeup of the corporation would be and if we can find some savings, we're going to find some savings," he said.

John McMullan, a gambling researcher from Saint Mary's University in Halifax, said the move is a recognition by the province that it doesn't need an arms-length body whose main responsibility is to "build up" the gambling industry.

He said that's mainly because gambling revenues have been flat in recent years and the government has rejected newer revenue streams such as online poker and racinos.

"It really puts government officials squarely into the gambling arena in policy terms," said McMullan.

The new corporation is expected to be in place by early summer.