With the New Jersey Senate Budget and Appropriations committee having passed Sen. Ray Lesniak’s S490 intrastate online gambling bill by an overwhelming 10-1 margin, it’s expected that the bill will come up for a vote by the full Senate in early 2011. This would put New Jersey in the vanguard of states looking to give online gambling the legal stamp of approval, but perhaps Garden State officials would do well to cast their gaze north of the 49th parallel and study the parallels between NJ’s plans and British Columbia’s experience.
British Columbia was the first Canadian province to get into the online gambling business, and like New Jersey, was quite caught up in all the excitement of charting previously unexplored territory. So much so that they appear to have ignored warning signs that the software behind their PlayNow.com offering wasn’t ready for prime time. At least, that’s the conclusion of an opposition New Democratic Party member.
The NDP’s lottery critic Shane Simpson filed a freedom of information request to have a look at the communications between the BC gov’t and ALC Orbis Technology, which designed PlayNow’s back end. Simpson’s document detective work found that the gov’t team that reviewed ALC Orbis’ proposal ‘highlighted a number of functional areas (business and IT) which did not satisfy BCLC’s requirements.’ The precise nature of the concerns was redacted, but at any rate, the gov’t was faced with a decision to either delay the launch by 3-4 months and open up the bid to other contractors or proceed as planned. Ultimately, BC chose to plow ahead after ‘the majority’ of said issues were ‘clarified and resolved.’
As has been well documented, the launch of PlayNow was an unmitigated disaster. Literally overnight, the gov’t threw away the one trump card they’d always played when justifying their move into the online gambling sphere – that they were the solid, trustworthy option in a sea of unregulated and unscrupulous non-governmental operators. Well, they certainly were a generous bunch, what with giving away $100 to anyone who asked, but trustworthy? Have to consult our dictionary again to see if there’s been some revisions…
Bottom line, while we think New Jersey’s on the right path with its online gambling plan, we’d like them to remember that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.