Thursday, July 24, 2008

Poor people and lottery tickets

A comment on the gambling post - see below - included a link to this interesting study that looked at why the biggest buyers of lottery tickets are the people who can least afford to waste the money.

B.C.'s online gambling plan means more problems

The nice people at B.C. Lotteries have just offered me $5 to try online gambling.
"Pay for Play Promo Cash," they called it in the e-mail. If I go online to gamble, the corporation will match the money I spend up to $5.
The Crown corporation's marketing people are just doing their job. It has a goal of recruiting more gamblers every year and increasing the average amount each one loses. That's how the business grows.
But it seems risky - or perhaps just destructive - to try and lure people into online gambling, with its great risks of addiction or problem gambling.
Especially for this government. In opposition Gordon Campbell opposed gambling because it destroyed lives and families and created a province of "losers." The party promised to halt gambling expansion.
And then did the opposite, including the introduction of Internet gambling in 2005.
It's a risky kind of kind of gambling to be promoting through e-mails sent to thousands of people like me.
A study released last week found online gamblers "play" more frequently and bet more aggressively than those who go to casinos. The study, by professors from the University of Western Ontario and the University of Nevada, found Internet gambling participants gambled much more frequently and risked more than people who went to casinos or bought lottery tickets.
Their gambling was easier to hide from family and friends and more likely to become part of their daily routine.
All in all, a higher risk activity with a greater likelihood of problems for the gamblers and their families.
The study concluded that governments should consider getting into the business, perhaps in partnership with casino companies, to protect gamblers from the risks of semi-legal Internet betting sites.
That might justify B.C. Lotteries early ventures into Internet gambling.
But the study raises some questions at the same time, starting with the wisdom of trying to offer cash to people to come online and bet.
B.C. Lotteries sets targets for the number of new gamblers - people who bet in some way each month - that it wants to recruit. Those have been public, part of the corporation's service plan, until this year.
Last year, for example, the corporation planned to use ad campaigns and promotions to recruit 240,000 new regular gamblers in B.C. (In fact, the number of gamblers dropped as a result of the scandals that hit the corporation.)
The government sets out to lure people who had stayed away from gambling and into buying lottery tickets or putting money into slot machines down at the local bingo hall.
Or into gambling online, a kind of betting that attracts younger participants.
B.C. Lotteries has set some significant limits to reduce the potential damage from its Internet gambling. Participants can't transfer more than $120 a week into their gambling accounts, so an individual's losses are limited to $6,240 a year, assuming he hasn't managed to set up one or two accounts in other peoples' names.
The corporation has controls to ensure gamblers are 19 and bar themselves from future betting on the site.
But the study suggested greater safeguards: Cross-checking new users with a list of pathological gamblers; having the site send messages when people have lost a lot of money or are playing long hours; and clear and large numbers on screen to tell the gambler how much he had lost during a betting session.
More fundamentally, it recommended government-controlled Internet gambling as a necessary evil. If people wanted to bet online, better it was regulated.
That's different than setting out to persuade people who otherwise wouldn't gamble that they should start betting.
Online gambling hasn't worked that well for B.C. Lotteries. The goal was to hit $18 million in revenue last year, but it fell short at $14 million. But the corporation still hopes people will be betting $48 million a year by 2010.
And some of that money is going to come from individuals and families who really can't afford to join Campbell's club of "losers."
Footnote: B.C. Lotteries online offerings include Keno and round-the-clock sports betting as well as "interactive games." These involve bettors, by letting them do things like click on balls to try and keep them aloft. But the clicking is actually meaningless in terms of the outcome, which is determined by a computer as soon as the bet is placed. Like the whirring and spinning of slot machines, it's just a way of keeping people involved so they lose more money.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cabinet betrays young disabled adults who badly need help

I'll deal with the issue in a column, but here's the first response from the B.C. Association of Community Living to cabinet order signed by the premier that's disastrous for disabled people in the province who badly need support.
Two court rulings have rejected a government edict denied support to people with IQs of 70 or above, even if they were assessed as needing help.
So cabinet, instead of its obligations, simply passed an order exempting the government from its own rules.


New Westminster, B.C., July 23, 2008 - The BC Association for Community Living (BCACL) is deeply concerned by recent changes made by the provincial government to the regulations of the Community Living Authority Act, in regards to I.Q. eligibility requirements. This is the Act and regulations that guide the work of Community Living BC (CLBC), the crown corporation that is responsible for supports and services to people with developmental disabilities in BC.

Faced with a second court case filed by the Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) on behalf of a youth who did not meet CLBC's eligibility criteria based on I.Q., the provincial government has changed the regulation to enshrine an I.Q. of 70 or below as a criterion for receiving services. The change was made without any community consultation or notice.

This effectively means that those youth with significant social or behavioural issues - in particular young adults with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) or autism who have an I.Q. over 70 and who require individualized support - are left to fend for themselves. Too often this is resulting in youth being forced to leave a safe home and at worst, the criminal justice system becomes the default support system.

Community advocates have been unanimously urging government, across all ministries, to move away from traditional psychological assessment tools that focus on I.Q. and to develop mechanisms that effectively and equitably assess individual needs. Instead of resolving the issue, the government, with the stroke of a pen, has removed any hope of recourse for families who are desperate for services for their young adult children. This is devastating for many families.

"This regressive step by the government is only a further example of the sweeping changes that happen behind closed doors, without any community consultation and at the expense of those most vulnerable," says Laney Bryenton, BCACL Executive Director. "It is completely unacceptable that vulnerable youth will be denied the services they so desperately need to achieve independence."


Big pay for small executive jobs at B.C. Rail

Among the surprises in last week's release of figures on management pay in the B.C. public sector was news that the B.C. Rail CEO Kevin Mahoney received $570,000 in total compensation to run a business with $18 million in revenues, fewer than 30 employees and not much to do.
Sean Holman has been on the story over the last week and Les Leyne weighs in with a column in today's Times Colonist.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The unofficial official 2010 theme song

I caught Geoff Berner up at the Vancouver Island Music Fest a couple of years ago and was impressed with his quirky, biting songs and sharp wit.
He's written a theme song for the 2010 Games, with one of those infectious choruses that will be sure to get you singing along. Check it out at his website..