The news that the government will expand online gambling so people can lose $10,000 a week will hardly help the Liberals fight charges of duplicity.
Their handling of the gambling file has been inept, unprincipled and frequently dishonest.
Gordon Campbell and the party fiercely opposed expanded gambling in opposition. They pledged to halt gambling expansion in the 2001 campaign, citing damage to families and communities.
Then they did the opposite, launching a push to get slot machines into large and small communities - all while pretending they weren't expanding gambling.
The latest move to encourage people to bet and lose more online is sleazy and dangerous.
When the Liberals introduced online gambling in 2004, they started small. Then solicitor general John Les said the B.C. Lotteries' offering would be limited to sports betting and playing the lotteries.
And, Les pledged, people would be protected because they would be limited to losing $70 in any one-week period. "I think we're taking measures to ensure that people can't go overboard," he said. "I think we're being entirely responsible."
When the gambling was expanded to include "interactive games" - kind of an online VLT - the weekly limit was raised to $120.
Now B.C. Lotteries is chasing the big bucks. Gamblers can transfer $10,000 per week into their accounts - half-a-million dollars a year in potential losses
I understand that the province is desperate for money. And certainly, policies can change over time.
But the Liberals' opposition to gambling was, supposedly, based on principle. Those are supposed to endure.
Kevin Krueger said gambling expansion was immoral and would lead directly to family break-ups, domestic violence and even murder. Campbell took a similar position. "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."
But since the Liberals were elected, they have been working to create more gamblers in B.C. and to lift even more money from each one of them.
Campbell's promise to halt gambling expansion turned out to a joke. There were 10 casinos with 2,400 slot machines when the Liberals were elected. Today, there are more than 10,000 VLTs in 31 gambling halls.
The Liberals have introduced Internet gambling, alcohol and ATMs in casinos and bigger bets and longer hours.
And created a lot more losers. The province's gambling take has more than doubled to a forecast $1.2 billion - more than the revenue from forestry or natural gas royalties.
The gambling binge meant more people were damaged. The B.C. Medical Association reported on addictions in the province earlier this year. It found research indicates 33,000 British Columbians have a severe gambling problem. That number more than doubled between 2002 and 2005, as the government rapidly expanded gambling. Another 128,000 people have a moderate gambling problem. (By comparison, 33,000 people have problems with illicit drugs.)
B.C. Lotteries' plans each year include targets for recruiting new gamblers, increasing the proportion of the population who bet and increasing the amount the average amount each person loses. The corporation's goal for this year is more than $560 in losses per adult British Columbian.
Many people don't gamble at all. To make that target, the government needs some serious losers.
Which leads back to online gambling and the new opportunity to lose $10,000 a week.
Online gambling creates a greater risk of addiction and destructive behaviour. The opportunity is always there. The "games" are designed to keep the gambler going, creating the illusion that he has some control over the outcome.
"Internet gambling is as addictive, if not more addictive, than other forms of gambling," Liberal MLA Ida Chong said in opposition.
Now, she, like her peers, is silent on the wild growth of government online gambling in B.C. You can argue that people should be free to gamble as they like and suffer whatever disasters result.
But Campbell, Krueger, Chong and the Liberals promised something better.