Just how interested is the British Columbia Lottery Corp. in seeing slot machines in bingo halls? Answer: interested enough that the company has contracted the former editor-in-chief of The Province to sell local governments on the benefits of approving those machines. In an interview with Public Eye, Brian Butters said, "My assignment at present is to basically manage the municipal approval process for what we call the community gaming initiative. And that entails basically presenting the opportunity to various municipal councils around the province, explaining to them the concept around the community gaming centre idea and inviting them to participate if they're prepared to do so."
An example: according to the Comox Valley Record, during a presentation to Courtney city council last May, Mr. Butters told its committee of the whole that, "gaming in B.C. needs to be preserved at all costs as it's an important linkage to charitable funding within communities. Larger, more modern facilities with more gaming choices (such as slot machines), will be more attractive to a larger population and get people to stay in the (bingo halls) for a lot longer." Moreover, "regarding problem gambling with slots, Butters said it has been shown by independent studies to be negligible."
When asked whether he would call himself a slot machine lobbyist, Mr. Butters told Public Eye, "Well I don't call myself that at all. I'm really there just to explain and expedite the process of approvals. I'm not urging councils to take any particular position on the issue of community gaming centres. I'm just there to provide information."
Mr. Butters, who has been working with the lottery corporation since April, became the publisher of the Kamloops Daily News and the Fredericton Daily Gleaner when he left The Province. He then went on to become the assistant vice-president of public affairs at the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. In 2001, he started up his own consulting company - B Squared Communications.
In addition to the lottery corporation, his company's clients have included Novus Insurance. Early on in the provincial Liberal mandate, Novus lobbied the government to increase private participation in the auto insurance industry.
Mr. Butters declined to reveal the length of his contract with the lottery corporation or its value. However, he did confirm he is part of a twelve member team that has been working on the community gaming centre initiative since March. That team is headed by project manager Les Orcutt, who last week replaced Jay Van Brunt.