BUSINESS

Scandal hits BC gov’t gambling site on first day of operation

TAGs: BCLC, British Columbia Lottery Corporation, Canada, playnow.com

BCLC-PlayNow-OversightWhat is there left to say about the BC Lottery Corp.’s launch (and subsequent crash just hours later) of its expanded online gaming site, PlayNow.com? What jokes are left to wring out of this farce? (PrayNow, PlayLater, etc.) At what point does the situation cease being funny? For many, that moment arrived with the news that PlayNow users’ data had been unnecessarily exposed during the snafu. So I guess you can add PlayAtYourOwnRisk to the list of punchlines.

As BCLC officials muddle through their self-described ‘week from hell’, it’s hard not to think of the parallels between what BCLC is going through and the environmental clusterfuck currently playing out in the Gulf of Mexico. That may sound like a stretch, but think about it in terms of how the executives from both companies dealt with their respective crises.

As late as a month after the original incident that caused the oil to leak, BP officials were stating that the environmental impact on the Gulf would be “very, very modest.” BP also seriously low-balled the estimated number of barrels of oil spewing from the well each day. Then CEO/Rodeo Clown Tony Hayward categorically stated “there are no [oil] plumes” floating below the surface, until multiple groups of scientists produced video footage of said plumes. Like the man said, who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?

The day after PlayNow crashed, a BCLC press release said that the site was voluntarily taken offline because of concerns over an overabundance of players leading to ‘slowness’ and ‘not good responsiveness’. This turned out to be something of a ‘not good response’ and BCLC eventually coughed up the (partial) truth three days later, although we still don’t know whether the exposure of players’ financial info was a case of technical incompetence or shoddy defense measures leaving the system vulnerable to malicious hacking. Despite their obvious attempt at obfuscation, BCLC officials claim they “haven’t lied to anyone.” They must be operating under the George Costanza principle that “it’s not a lie if you believe it.”

What both of these situations have in common is a shocking lack of oversight. In BP’s case, it was the U.S. government’s toothless and disinterested Mineral Management Service, who largely took BP at its word that it was doing all it could to prevent such a catastrophic event from occurring, and hey, even if it did, they were capable of dealing with an event ten times the size of the current spill. Sure, they were.

In BCLC’s case, being a branch of government, they were literally in charge of verifying their own diligence (or lack thereof), which is a bit like having an Olympic figure skater grade themselves after a performance and then using that score as the barometer for handing out the hardware. ‘Another gold medal? Aww, you shouldn’t have… Toss it on the pile with the others, will ya?’

It never ceases to amaze me that a government like the one in BC loves to demonize privately-held, internationally-operated gambling companies, while simultaneously holding themselves up as pillars of propriety. Yet it’s the privately-held companies that voluntarily submit to rigorous inspection by internationally-recognized licensing bodies, while BC’s government simply says ‘trust us’. Even though this particular BC government has a distinctly dodgy track record when it comes to the issue of trust (and if you don’t trust me on this, check here, here or here). And that’s not even addressing the issue of the ‘irregularities’ on BCLC’s land-based casino ledgers.

The truth is that BC wasn’t adequately prepared to launch their expanded online gambling product, and now they’re paying the consequences. What’s particularly galling is that if they’d just bothered to consult with some homegrown industry experts before charging out the gate, this whole debacle could have been avoided. Before I changed my business model to a brand-licensing operation, Bodog ran a number of technology companies out of Vancouver. With over a decade’s worth of experience, these companies could have provided invaluable assistance to the development of BC’s online gambling plans, but the BC gov’t couldn’t be arsed. In fact, BC did much to discourage these companies from operating in this space, so much so that when BC decided to get into the business for themselves, they were forced to look overseas for technical help. And just look where that got them. They’re the laughing stock of the industry and getting some serious blowback in the mainstream press. They sowed the wind, and now they’ve reaped the whirlwind. And it was all so unnecessary.

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