Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Children May Die!

And in Canada, reality trumps the 'phony moral high ground':

British Columbia's new online casino may be the height of hypocrisy -- brought to you by a government that once condemned cyber-gambling as an evil, addictive vice -- but here's a couple of sure things you can bet on:

The Gordon Campbell government won't be the last to dive into the virtual pool of cash just waiting to be drained from the wallets of Canadian gamblers.

And, despite their moralistic huffing and puffing about the playnow.com website, there's no way the NDP Opposition will shut it down should they win the next election. There's simply too much loot to be made.

British Columbia became the first jurisdiction in North America to offer online casino gambling last week when the B.C. Lottery Corp. started dealing virtual blackjack hands and spinning a cyber-roulette wheel.

Despite the wonky start to the new venture -- the site crashed within hours under the weight of so many curious gamblers choking its capacity -- the government is still delighted. The fact that the playnow site crashed showed the demand for online gambling exceeded B.C. Lottery's most optimistic projections.

The site will be fixed and it will be a hit. The NDP and other critics will continue to whine. And the Liberals will take their lumps and rake in the profits.

Are the Libs a bunch of hypocrites? Sure they are.

Rich Coleman, the cabinet minister responsible, was once the government's fiercest critic of online gambling and vowed to wipe it out.

His cabinet colleague, Kevin Krueger, once said studies show pathological gamblers often abuse their children and famously predicted: "Children may die as a result of gambling expansion and their blood will be on the heads of the government."

My favourite Liberal quote on gambling expansion came from the premier himself, who said: "I want to build an economy based on winners, not losers, and gambling is always based on losers."

But that was then. Now the government has come to a simple realization: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

The Internet has drastically changed the ethical equation around gambling. The fact is no government can stop people from gambling online. There are too many offshore betting sites that are too easy to use.

So the government had a choice: Stand back and watch all that money drain out of British Columbia to offshore websites -- estimated at $100 million a year -- or try to get a piece of the action for themselves.

B.C. won't be the last jurisdiction to reach the same conclusion. Lotto Quebec and the Atlantic Lottery Corp. are already planning to team up with B.C. Lottery to launch an online poker platform that will compete with big offshore sites such as Party Poker and Full Tilt. Watch for other provinces to jump on board.

The New Democrats, despite their self-righteous preaching, also realize this genie can't be put back in the bottle. Gaming critic Shane Simpson said an NDP government would possibly lower the betting limit, but wouldn't necessarily shut down the playnow website. Translation: Gamble on, losers.

Speaking of hypocrites, don't forget it was the New Democrats who introduced slot machines to B.C., which now enslave addicted gamblers. And the party has accepted campaign donations from gambling companies such as Great Canadian Casino and Gateway Casino.

Online gambling is not going away, no matter how deep people want to bury their heads in the sand.

It's better that the government try to keep as much of that money inside our own borders to fund health and education, rather than cling to some phoney moral high ground while precious dollars bleed out of our province.

No comments: