Friday, March 02, 2007

Les is wrong, B.C. is already into online gambling

So who are you going to believe, Solicitor General John Les, who says there's no way the government is getting into Internet gambling?
Or B.C Lotteries, which says it is already into online betting and plans to expand its offerings?
The smart money is against the minister. Especially because the evidence is there, in black and white in the budget documents and in full colour on the BC Lotteries' website.
Les, responsible for both increasing the take and reducing problem gambling, is the latest Liberal to end up in contortions since they were elected on a 2001 campaign promise "stop the expansion of gambling that has increased gambling addiction and put new strains on families."
They did the opposite, but it took the Liberals years to quit denying the obvious. They didn't just break the promise, they'd smashed it into little bits.
Now the denial is around online gambling.
When Les was asked about the issue the legislature this month, he was dead assertive.
"I want to be very clear," he said. "There will be no Internet gaming conducted by the B.C. Lottery Corp. - period."
But only the day before, as part of the budget package, the lottery corporation's plan for this year was released, approved by Les.
"BCLC now offers a full range of gaming products including casinos, bingos and online gaming through PlayNow," the corporation reported. Note, "online gaming."
Les pitched the lottery's online effort as a convenience, just another way to sell existing lottery tickets.
But if you check out B.C. Lotteries' PlayNow website, you'll see he's wrong. It's online gambling, including some dubious efforts to separate unsuspecting people from their money.
B.C. Lotteries lets you bet on sports online, 24 hours a day.
You can gamble up to $200 a single round of online Keno, with a new game starting every five minutes.
Both those sound like online gambling.
And then there are the corporation's "interactive" games, a sort of a poor man's online VLT.
Take Bump & Volley. Players put down bets and then click on a ball with their mouse, trying to keep it in the air while moving it around symbols. Get the right ones and you win a prize.
Or the Road to Vancouver. Place your bets and click on squares to try and uncover symbols. Get the rights ones, advance through the levels and win cash.
Except it's a con. The mouse clicks, as the official game explanation and B.C. Lottery website explain, have no effect on the outcome.
When people put up their money a B.C. Lotteries computer determines whether the game will pay any money and how much. The clicking and spinning have no effect.
All that interaction is pretend. It just keeps the player involved.
And keeps him playing and playing. Researchers have found the illusion of control keeps people playing games longer, even while they're losing. They can tell themselves that next time they'll pick the right squares, or move the ball the right way. That's why slot machine designers are including touch screens to let players stop the spinning wheels.
It also is just less foolish to pretend to play a game then it is to sit there and pump money into bets that will inevitably, over anything other than the short term, produce losses.
Keno, sports betting and "interactive games" which try to bring the VLT experience into the home. That sure sounds like online gaming.
There are controls. You can't put more than $120 a week into your online account.
But it's hard to see how Les can be so emphatic in denying that online gaming is already happening.
And it's hard to see how this can be a good thing.
The lottery corporation plans calls for recruiting more gamblers, and taking more from each one, so it has to push into more seductive games, offered in more locations - including the home.
But the government's eagerness to keep pushing gambling is harder to understand.
Back in the old days, then opposition leader Gordon Campbell explained why he wouldn't expand gambling.
"I want to build an economy based on winners, not losers, and gambling is always based on losers,'' he said. "The only way government makes money on gambling is because you lose it."
Now his government is giving people the chance to become losers right in their own homes.


Anonymous said...

Why don't you use the right language and tell it like it is. Les is not "wrong", he is lying. Again.

Anonymous said...

Everyone knows Les is manipulating the truth, but since Paul needs contact with those foiks to write his articles it wouldn't be wise of him to call a Minister a liar. Folks get sued for saying such things.

David said...

I play at online casinos all the time. I already know that I'm addicted. In my opinion and after I tried both 'games' I can say that the B.C. Lottery is exactly like online gambling. In both of them its almost impossible to win. Unfortunately, I'm the proof for that :-(

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Solicitor General John Les is hoping that allowing booze into the casinos will keep people from doing too much online gaming?

Anonymous said...

Can you believe anything that comes out of a Ministry that allows trust accounts to be set up to hold cash for minors that win lottery prizes until they are 19.

---or hides the specific odds of Scratch and Win lottery games on under Ticket Line Up instead of under Odds.

----and won't track the gambling related suicides when all but one of the other provinces are.

Correct me if I'm wrong---but I think I'm right.

Anonymous said...

I really don't want government to be involved in gambling at all. I find the whole concept of legal gambling to be a moral quandary - I believe that people should have the freedom to do it if they want, but gambling is the ultimate fool's game and does terrible damage to some people. I cannot fathom why anybody with even an elementary background in statistics would want to bother with gambling at all. Maybe that's the answer - a license to gamble based on successful completion of a statistics exam.