Canadian Environmental Health Atlas

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Video Lottery Terminals

Video Lottery Terminals

Gambling Machines
Video lottery terminals (VLTs) are electronic gambling machines. Depending on the jurisdiction, VLTs can be found in bars, restaurants, convenience stores, and other locations.

Like video arcade machines, VLTs give people the opportunity to insert money and then play a game while watching a screen. Conventional slots, blackjack, poker, and other games that involve making bets can all be played on a VLT. However, unlike coin-operated video arcade games, the stakes for VLTs are high.1

VLT Games Highly Addictive
Players can complete many games in quick succession and spend money very rapidly at a VLT. In some games, the player makes choices that can affect the outcome, such as choosing a new card when playing video poker. In many games, the player simply pushes a button or pulls a lever. In any case, the game is over quickly. Seconds after the card is chosen or the button is pushed, the machine indicates that the player has won or lost.

The speed and excitement of VLT games along with their mesmerizing audio and visual effects make them highly addictive—the “crack cocaine” of gambling (FIgure 1).2 Indeed, VLTs may be associated with more negative health outcomes than other types of gambling because they are often played in isolation rather than in a social context.

  • 1. Gilliland JA, Ross NA. Opportunities for video lottery terminal gambling in Montréal: an environmental analysis. Can J Public Health. 2005;96(1):55-59.
  • 2. Doiron JP, Mazer DB. Gambling with video lottery terminals. Qual Health Res 2001;11:631-646.