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July 19, 2010

From Liar to Evil

The BC Liberals and Gordon Campbell have gone from being rejected as liars to being rejected as evil. Their reputation as liars was established following their obvious deceit in the 2009 election over the issues of the size of the deficit ($495 million vs. $2 billion) and the introduction of the HST. They trumped that and became evil by introducing a government sponsored Internet casino.

Once-upon-a-time Campbell and his colleagues swore that they opposed expanded gambling; they said video lottery terminals are addictive and Internet gambling is the crack-cocaine of gambling. Now they are using the power of government to sell that crack.

In its news release, the spin from the government said there was $100 million a year at stake. It stated that: " ... online gambling is a $20 billion dollar industry. British Columbia's share of this global market is estimated to be $100 million a year that was going to illegal, offshore gambling sites." Minister of Housing and Social Development, Rich Coleman indicated his government wants to repatriate that $100 million a year.

Next we might hear that the Campbell government wants to repatriate hundreds of millions that are being spent on dope or encouraging us to drink and smoke so the taxman can rake in ever more revenue! What the government is attempting to do with its Internet casino is no different.

Within hours of the launch of the Campbell Casino, the website crashed. The spin from the government was that the crash indicated its popularity. In reality it crashed because the BC Lottery Corporation, the government agency responsible for expanded gambling, sent its 140,000 registered "PlayNow" users an email saying that they would receive a $10 free credit for playing at the new Internet casino, plus they could get $100 in free "match-play" if they bought in for another $100, as could all new players. Multiply 140,000 by $110 and you get $15.4 million; add to that whatever BCLC draws in with its full page ads to attract new gamblers. Of course, the government expects the gamblers to lose the "free" match-play cash and many millions more. The point is that any casino or store in the province would crash if it offered to give away over $15 million as an enticement to customers.

I have submitted freedom of information requests to both Coleman's ministry and BCLC for any evidence they have to substantiate the claim that British Columbians spend $100 million per year on illegal Internet gambling sites. Even if the government's claim is true, it is unacceptable for government to actively promote gambling. It is not a case of taxing something that would occur anyways; unlike taxing liquor and tobacco, the government is in the business of actively encouraging people to gamble more - to the tune of offering over $15 million in incentives to get gamblers hooked on Internet gambling. That takes the BC Liberals beyond being accused of being liars to definitely being absolutely evil.