All bets are on?

The Campbell administration is being lobbied to sanction privately run gambling Websites even as it expands its own online betting business. Under the Criminal Code, only provincial governments are authorized to conduct Internet gambling in Canada. But an industry association representing international Internet gambling companies wants a piece of that action.

The association - the Vancouver-based Interactive Gaming Council - has proposed the government open up the online betting business to private firms. And it's dangling the carrot of a "major new revenue stream" if the province breaks its monopoly and starts regulating those firms.

In a 2008 submission to the legislature's select standing committee on finance and government services, the council argued British Columbia could take a cut of the bets placed on the firms' Websites and charge them licensing fees.

And, by regulating private online gambling, the government would be protecting consumers by "setting standards," ensuring the "integrity" of those games and the "suitability" of their operators - among a numer of other benefits.

But, according to the council, there could be trouble if the government kept its monopoly and just added casino-style games to the British Columbia Lottery Corp.'s Website.

The presentation warned "the media and the public generally react negatively to what they view as 'an expansion of gambling.'"

The province would also would lose all the revenue benefits of an "open regulated market," while "wasting enforcement resources in a fruitless attempt" to "censor" private gambling Websites.

And it would "excessively empower" the lottery corporation "making enforcement activities virtually impossible (improbable that government would shut down its only supplier)."

The council's submission, according to an internal email authored by BCLC's president and chief executive officer Michael Graydon, "caught the attention of the Standing Committee because of the revenue opportunity."

But a briefing note prepared for gaming minister Rich Coleman stated the council's "proposed model" couldn't be "authorized under the current gaming provisions of the federal Criminal Code."

And, on August 20 of this year the lottery corporation announced it would be adding "casino-style games such as blackjack, roulette and poker" to its PlayNow.com Website.

Nevertheless, the private sector has continued its lobbying efforts.

Council chief executive officer John Kennedy FitzGerald was scheduled to meet with Mr. Graydon and Minister Coleman in October.

Mr. FitzGerald informed us those meetings were cancelled because he needed to "attend to matters here in Ontario unrelated to the IGC."

But a second briefing note prepared for the gaming minister in advance of that aborted conversation included a section detailing "Options for Private Sector Involvement in Online Gaming in BC."

It's an unanswered question though as to whether the Campbell administration will exercise any of those options - which were blanked out by government before being released in response to a freedom of information request.

1 Comment

Sorry but I will take the expansion of gaming in BC any day over unlicensed, unregulated offshore gaming facilities which hide behind corporate shells in jurisdictions without extradition treaties with Canada or the US.

Given the repeated exposure of these firms (I am referring to offshore gaming facilities in general and not the specific members of the IGC) for cheating and fraud, the last thing BC residents need is to have their money stolen from them under the guise of some sort of Government sanctioned activity.

At least money lost to gaming in BC stays in BC and helps funds programs here.

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