Tuesday, October 20, 2009

B.C. a bad bet to help gambling addicts

Good work in the Times Colonist today on the B.C. government's abysmal record in working to prevent problem gambling and help the inevitable victims of the Liberals' huge expansion of gambling in the province.

The Press Pass column in the Sunday Times Colonist also provided this background.

"HYPOCRITES ARE US -- The B.C. Liberals have made a habit lately of saying one thing and doing the opposite (see HST later in this column). But nowhere is that more blatant than on the gambling file, where they recently expanded Internet gaming, while cutting help to problem gamblers.

One wonders what Tourism Minister Kevin Krueger would say about that if he were still in Opposition. This is him, back in 1997, attacking the NDP government of the day: "Women in British Columbia will die because of gambling expansion; that's the prediction of our experts at UBC. Some 37 per cent of the spouses of pathological gamblers abuse their children. So children may die as a result of gambling expansion, and their blood will be on the heads of the government that expanded gambling and of the MLAs who voted for it. This is a serious, serious issue."

WE'RE NO HELLS ANGELS -- Asked recently why the Liberals have drifted so far from what they once said in Opposition, Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman credited a growing understanding of the gambling file, if not the $1 billion-plus profits.

"I think you have to mature on the file over time," he said. "That's what we've done. I think you also, like any product, have to stay current with the issues around it."

For instance, Coleman claims one of the biggest problems with Internet gaming is that "it isn't controlled." People can visit thousands of unregulated sites run out of the Barbados and Cayman Islands, he said.

"We'd rather do it here, and know what's in front of us, and also, at the same, we can, on our site, keep people informed on issues around problem gambling if they need help and all that stuff ... We're managing and watching it a lot differently than somebody that frankly doesn't care about them."

How that squares with a 34 per cent cut to the problem-gambling budget remains unclear."

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