On Friday August 2, 2002 the final documents were filed regarding the class action suit against Loto-Quebec on behalf of Jean Brochu and 119 000 other compulsive gamblers. The number of compulsive gamblers was arrived at by accepting the figures of Pauline Marois who admitted that there were 125, 000 compulsive gamblers in Quebec. 95% of people presenting for therapy appear to be dependent on VLTs, thus the figure, 119 000.

I personally think that the number is underestimated. A Loto-Quebec spokesperson said that 1 in 10 Quebecers played a VLT during the year 2000. That would equate to 700 000 people based on an adult population of 7 million. A study done by Montreal Public Health found that 43% of VLT players were problematic. That would indicate 300 000 gamblers adversely affected by VLTs in Quebec.

Notwithstanding, the class action suit is asking for the following minimum amounts to allow VLT victims to seek treatment for gambling dependency:

Cost of Individual Therapy (30 days)
$ 333 200 000
Psychological Follow-up
$ 59 500 000
Fees for Medical Expertise
$ 59 500 000
Loss of Salary during Treatment ($7/hr * 32hr/wk * 4.3wks)
$ 114 597 000
Miscellaneous Expenses (Parking, Transportation, etc.)
$ 11 900 000
$ 578 697 000

In addition the suit asks for exemplary damages of $1 000 per person ($119 000 000) to create a Foundation which would fund research, prevention programs and treatment for gamblers who become dependent on VLTs.


Sol Boxenbaum: the biggest disappointment of my career.

Although the plan was to hold a press conference next week to denounce the settlement reached between Loto-Quebec and the law firm of Garneau, Verdon, Michaud and associates, a leak to certain French language newspapers has made it necessary to issue the following statement. Any further questions can be addressed to Sol Boxenbaum at 514 486 6226 as of 1:00 P.M. Thursday January 7, 2010.

In the fourteen years that I have been involved as a consumer advocate in matters relating to gambling, the settlement reached in this case is the biggest disappointment of my career. As is often the case, in my opinion, the only winners were the lawyers on both sides of the issue.

Following eight years of legal manoeuvering by the law firms representing Loto-Quebec and the manufacturers of Video Lottery Terminals the trial began and as anticipated, Loto-Quebec eventually proposed an out-of-court settlement. The case which was based on duty-of-care could never have withstood judgement. It was alleged that the VLTs which Loto-Quebec had placed in thousands of locations in Quebec carried no warnings that the machines might cause a dependancy and should be considered dangerous. As a result of the absence of a warning approximately ten percent of the adukt population began to play the machines. A large percentage of these people began to develop behavioural problems which lead, among other things, to criminal activity in order to maintain the participation, and to an extraordinary number of suicides. Among the defense arguments was one that pretended that the victims were already psychologically “damaged”. They also argued that VLTs were no more dangerous than any other form of gambling. Subsequent studies established the fact that the addictive features were built directly into the machines unlike all other forms of gambling.

The class-action asked for warnings to be placed on the screens of the VLTs. It asked for $700 million dollars which would be used for reimbursement for therapy and/or for for starting therapy and rehabilitation. An independant Foundation would be established at arms’ length from Loto-Quebec and the Government in order to disburse funding to the victims and to provide education and awareness to the general public to promote responsibility in gambling. In the settlement was agreed that the Foundation would be government sponsored with no independant participation. Furthermore all decisions of payment to victims would be made exclusively by the Ministery oF Health and Social Service (MSSS) and would not allow rebates for services of therapy that did not conform with MSSS policy.

Sol Boxenbaum

The Law Firm (GVMS) further agreed that the machines did not cause the addiction, contrary to the studies that claimed otherwise. Ironicallly, in the same time space that this agreement was being penned, Loto-Quebec was placing an order for new VLTs to replace the aging inventory. $265 million is being spent on the new generation of machines and when asked if there would be realistic warnings on the screens, M. Garneau replied that he did not know. In the end I can find absolutely nothing in this settlement that is going to help the victims. It is, furthermore, damaging as the eyes of the world have been focused on Quebec since the outset of this trial which ends up with no winners except for the lawyers. The firm of GVMS will receive $2 million 750 000 in fees and the firm of Heenan Blakie, who represented Loto-Quebec, an unspecified amount.

The terms of settlement were published in all Quebec print media on January 16, 2010 and were approved in early February in Superior Court, Quebec City and I believe there were no winners.

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