One of two men leading an attempt to sue the Atlantic Lottery Corp., alleging its video lottery terminals are addictive and deceptive, is disappointed the Supreme Court of Canada has squashed their years-long legal pursuit.
The highest court in the country ruled Friday against the proposed class-action lawsuit, involving 30,000 residents of Newfoundland and Labrador seeking damages from the ALC over what the people alleged was unlawful gain of VLT revenue.
Retiree Doug Babstock of Mount Pearl was one of those 30,000, and one of two lead plaintiffs named in the lawsuit.
"It's been nine years that we started this ... and I think it hurts a lot of people," Babstock said.
"You've got over 30,000 people on the list, and I think for most of them it's not done for financial reason."
Babstock said he himself never considered the lawsuit to be about financial gain. Rather, he said, he wanted to put an end to a form of gambling that has hurt a lot of people.
He recalled one story from a woman whose uncle had died by suicide as a result of his addiction to VLT gambling. Another time, Babstock witnessed an older woman urinated on the floor rather than giving up her seat at the machine.
"I know many other cases like that, and I don't think the people in government and obviously I think the court system, realizes the damage these machines are causing people," he said.
"It's the machine taking control of a person. I was never that bad, thank God, but I saw stuff like that and it is terrible."
'I knew I had a problem'
Babstock's problems with VLTs began with just $5.
He said he put that into a machine one evening with a friend and won $40 in a matter of minutes. He used that money to buy a round of drinks for the group he was with.
"That was fun," he said.
In 2000 things began to ramp up. Babstock said he began to "get very involved" in playing VLTs, and after his retirement in 2006 it worsened.
"It became ridiculous. That's the only description I can use. I'd go out for 12 p.m. to be somewhere and I'd make sure I was home by 4:30 p.m. before my wife got home. She didn't know," he said.
"I knew I had a problem."
Over the course of eight years of gambling on VLTs he said he lost about $75,000.
Babstock sought counselling, and gives full credit to his counsellor for helping him to kick the habit over a two-year stint.
The six people in his group counselling sessions had collectively lost $1.2 million, he said.
The ALC owns almost 2,000 VLTs in Newfoundland and Labrador, with a net revenue to the NLC of $130 million for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, according to the corporation's most recent financial reports.
Babstock hasn't touched a VLT since Sept. 5, 2008, a date etched in his memory.
"I remember it well," he said.
"I realized at the time that I made a big mistake. I didn't have the same activity financially as some people I know, but I lost a chunk of money and it made a big effect on my life."
While the lawsuit is no more — which could have resulted in a ban on VLTs if it had been successful — Babstock said there has to be something done to make the machines less dangerous.
"Put a limit on what you can win. Make it $50. It's still entertainment but nobody is throwing in $1,000 to win $500," he said.
"Don't go trying to make a career out of taking money out of these machines, because it's not going to happen."
Babstock said he's disappointed with his own decisions, but hopes other people can also get on with their lives.
Today, he plays golf, volleyball and cribbage, all without gambling.
"I just enjoy life, and I wish that everybody could have that. Get over it, and get on with their life."