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AJAs 2020 Finalists

The Casino Crapshoot


Slug/Label The Casino Crapshoot
Date Aired or Published July 1, 2020
Media outlet where first aired or published: The Halifax Examiner
Name of Program:
If co-produced, list partner:
List awards, grants: Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity-Investigative Journalism Intensive (Full Scholarship)
Running time (TV/Radio):

Short explanation of the story and how it developed:

Nova Scotia’s casinos were supposed to fill provincial coffers with tourist dollars, not local ones -- and the spinoffs were supposed to have positive impacts on other sectors of the economy. The best part? Negative offshoots would be someone else’s problem. But like so many projects in Nova Scotia, this didn’t work out as planned. As early as 1975, the province was told it needed casino resorts to attract tourists, and one company even pitched one in the early nineties. But the province ignored this advice to commission urban casinos instead, which lacked the opulence or excitement of popular casino destinations. The early years were spent fruitlessly chasing “high end” ($500-$2000 spend) and “premium” players ($2000+ spend). The government pushed for a bigger, more expensive waterfront casino that was deemed necessary to attract them and capitulated on promises like drinking on the gaming floor, high stakes gaming and extended hours. I uncovered that over the years efforts to attract these tourists fell off completely, instead drawing earnings from local crowds -- on average, 57 per cent of their anticipated revenues from 1997-2019. This story developed from my quest to find the largest impacts casinos have had in Nova Scotia on their 25th anniversary. In addition to conducting a series of in-depth interviews (including the man who wrote the 1975 report), I spent hours accessing the Nova Scotia Gambling Corporation’s files at the provincial archives, seeking out reports from the legislative library and doing a thorough dive into newspaper archives spanning the 25-year period the casino's been open.

Resources of the newsroom (money and time) available to complete the story:

Tim Bousquet commissioned this story in May 2020 based on my research. It went through several detailed rounds of editing with him and Phil Moscovitch, a freelancer for the Examiner which took approximately a month. Because the Examiner features daily news commissioning and developing this piece represented a significant investment in labour.

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