Smart Choices, a new responsible service certification program for hospitality industry employees, launched January 2, 2017. Smart Choices replaces Serving It Safe and the Problem Gambling Assistance Program. The LGA partnered with the Manitoba Tourism Education Council (MTEC) to develop and deliver the online program.
Smart Choices focuses on current laws, safety requirements, and responsible strategies when serving or selling liquor. The program also features new elements to increase awareness about problem gambling, drink‑spiking and sexual assault, and Canada’s low-risk drinking guidelines. Manitoba is among the first provinces in Canada to incorporate these elements into responsible service training.
The Liquor and Gaming Control Act requires all managers, security and staff who sell or serve liquor to take responsible service training. While responsible service training has been a requirement for restaurants, lounges and other liquor service licensees for over two decades, during 2017, the LGA will roll out this training for all retail licensees.
Please visit the Smart Choices website for more information or to register for the program. Please click below for answers to some common questions about Smart Choices.
Can I take the program online? What’s the program website?
The website is SmartChoicesMB.ca and it’s easy to take the program online. Just sign up, read the program material, complete the test and receive your temporary certificate through this website. Once you’ve successfully completed the online program, MTEC will mail you your exam results and a laminated wallet-sized ID card with an expiry date.
MTEC also offers Smart Choices in a paper-based format and through in-class training.
How long will it take me to complete Smart Choices?
The program is very flexible. Once you sign up, you have a full year to view the Smart Choices program material and take the test. It takes approximately two to four hours to go through the material, but it could take you more or less time depending on how fast you read and on your familiarity with the material.
Once you begin the test, you have 90 minutes to complete it. The test is 45 multiple choice questions and you must get 80% correct to pass. If you do not pass the test, you must pay $20 to re-take the test, and you have unlimited tries to pass at this point.
I own a licensed establishment. Is it my responsibility to make sure my staff have this training?
Yes, each licensee is responsible for making sure that all employees who serve or sell liquor, as well as managers and security personnel, have successfully completed an approved responsible service program. Some licensees protect themselves by keeping copies of every employee’s proof of certification (i.e. cards) in employee files.
Effective January 2, 2017, approved responsible service programs include Smart Choices, Serving It Safe and It’s Good Business. Smart Choices cards will have an expiry date. Serving It Safe and It’s Good Business cards do not have an expiry date, but will expire on January 1, 2022.
Are there other training options?
MTEC offers Smart Choices online, as well as in a paper-based format and through in-class training.
The Liquor and Gaming Control Act also allows licensees to propose their own responsible service training program for approval by the LGA. The LGA will review any proposed third-party programs to ensure that core responsible service information is included, and the LGA may require additions and amendments to third-party programs or may reject approval if a proposed program is insufficient. A licensee can only offer its own program in place of Smart Choices if it has been approved in writing by the LGA.
I’m a retailer. Why do I have to learn about gambling?
The LGA recognizes that some establishments do not offer gambling. During 2017, the LGA will offer group training by a liquor inspector for specialty wine stores, liquor vendors, duty-free stores and liquor manufacturers with a retail endorsement. This training will be tailored to their specific retail environments; for example, the training will not include the gambling awareness module. Once staff groups are trained at these first sessions, any new employees will simply take Smart Choices online.
Beer vendors are located in hotels, which generally also have liquor service licences. As such, managers, security and staff at beer vendors will be required to take Smart Choices so that their certification is transferable across licensed areas. Liquor Marts also will not be offered group training by a liquor inspector.
For liquor service establishments, Smart Choices will have liquor and gambling components whether or not the establishment offers gambling. Requiring the same liquor and gambling training for everyone means that the Smart Choices certification is easily transferable across the hospitality industry.
What’s Smart Choices? Isn’t this the same as Serving It Safe?
Smart Choices is a new responsible service training program that replaces Serving It Safe and the Problem Gambling Assistance Program (PGAP). Smart Choices launched January 2, 2017, and Serving It Safe is no longer offered.
I already have a Serving It Safe or an It’s Good Business card. Do I have to take Smart Choices?
Managers, staff and security who have already completed Serving It Safe or It’s Good Business through MTEC have a five-year grace period before they have to take Smart Choices.
Your Serving It Safe or It’s Good Business training will expire on January 1, 2022, five years after the Smart Choices launched. You will need to take Smart Choices before that date if you are still working in a licensed establishment at that time.
Who has to take Smart Choices?
Under The Liquor and Gaming Control Act, all managers, security, and staff who serve or sell liquor must take responsible service training.
Service Establishments: Effective January 2, 2017, managers, security and staff who do not already have Serving It Safe or It’s Good Business training must successfully complete Smart Choices before starting to work in a licensed service establishment.
Retail Establishments: As this is a new requirement for retail licensees, managers, security, staff and delivery drivers who currently work in licensed retail establishments will have a one-year grace period to complete responsible service training. The LGA will begin to inspect retail premises for compliance with this training requirement effective January 1, 2018.
How long is Smart Choices valid?
The LGA recognizes that responsible service laws and strategies change over time. A recertification requirement is being introduced to keep knowledge up-to-date across the hospitality industry. Recertification is common across Canada, and all other Western provinces have this requirement.
Smart Choices certification is valid for five years. Your Smart Choices card will have an expiry date printed on it, dated for five years from the date you successfully complete the program. You will need to take Smart Choices again if you are still working in a licensed establishment when your card expires.
Why is gambling now part of the program? What happened to PGAP?
Generally, gambling is offered in businesses where liquor is served. The Addictions Foundation of Manitoba (AFM) delivered PGAP since it was launched in the late 1990s; however, this in-person program was only required for one senior staff person at each VLT site. The LGA has worked with the AFM to include problem gambling awareness training in Smart Choices. This approach will equip all staff at VLT sites and casinos to help customers who may be struggling with gambling. Requiring the same liquor and gambling training for everyone also means that the Smart Choices certification is easily transferable across the hospitality industry.
The LGA has stopped inspecting for PGAP training. The AFM may still offer various responsible gambling training programs; however, the LGA no longer considers PGAP training to be a requirement for VLT sites that are also licensed to serve liquor.
A small number of First Nations VLT sites do not have liquor licences. The LGA and AFM will work with these establishments to ensure staff have responsible gambling training. Staff do not need to take Smart Choices if the establishments where they work do not have a liquor licence.