BCLC boss laments his second-rate sports betting product

TAGs: BCLC, British Columbia Lottery Corporation, Canada, canadian football league, michael graydon, sports betting

bclc-michael-graydon-cflThe Canadian province of British Columbia is considering putting slot machines on the ferryboats linking the mainland with Vancouver Island. BC Ferries is a quasi-Crown corporation that routinely loses money, and in an effort to replace red ink with black, the government is considering a pilot program to “assess the viability of gaming and is seeking feedback on introducing gaming as a permanent revenue-generating program.”

The shipboard slots would be placed “in a secure area, with restricted access.” The ferry route linking Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay that was selected for the pilot project serves an average of 5m passengers annually, and with a 95-minute sailing time, “offers good potential in terms of playing time and traffic.” The British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) oversees all gaming in the province and would be in charge of the ferry slots should the program go ahead as planned.

On Nov. 10, BCLC president Michael Graydon (pictured) was apparently watching some Canadian Football League action when he tweeted the following: “Shame the CFL endorsing Bodog a company breaking the law in Can[ada]. Come on Senate even the playing field and vote on this.” Graydon was evidently referring to the Bodog logos embedded in the playing field, or perhaps the commercials that aired during breaks in play.

It’s less clear what Graydon meant by breaking the law, as there are no restrictions against an internationally based online gambling company promoting its dot-net services to Canadian punters. For years now, companies like Bodog and Stoke-based Bet365 have struck marketing deals with the CFL, and while this clearly annoys Graydon and the heads of other provincial gambling monopolies, annoying lottery bosses also isn’t against Canadian law. (Hell, their big city mayors are allowed to smoke crack.)

What Graydon is really irked about is that BCLC’s online gambling site is limited by law to offering parlay-style sports bets, while international firms can offer a full range of options, including single-game wagers. That brings us to the second half of Graydon’s tweet, in which he urged Canada’s Senate to pass the C-290 sports betting bill currently languishing in legislative limbo. But honestly, the fact that a monopoly operator that earned $1.128b in net income last year feels the need to “even the playing field” stretches the definition of irony well beyond its breaking point.

As for C-290, its future is uncertain ever since Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament this summer. By law, government-sponsored bills that made it to the Senate have to start from scratch following prorogation, while private member bills like C-290 have the option to pick up where they left off. However, the Senate would have to unanimously support the idea of C-290 picking up where it left off – awaiting its third and final reading before senators cast a final vote – which is unlikely, given the opposition it has faced since last fall’s hearings.

With C-290 stalled, Graydon will have plenty of future opportunities to publicly stew about the second-rate product he’s offering BC’s sports bettors. But perhaps his time would be better spent beefing up BCLC’s anti-money-laundering (AML) mechanisms. In September, the Vancouver Sun obtained a copy of a Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch audit that showed BCLC was under-reporting large cash transactions at its brick-and-mortar casinos.

Canada’s Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (FINTRAC) requires BCLC to report all cash transactions over $10k, but the audit found that BCLC wasn’t reporting instances in which patrons engaged in multiple transactions over a 24-hour period that cumulatively totaled more than $10k. FINTRAC has publicly spanked BCLC over this and other issues for three years running now, but BCLC continues to insist that FINTRAC doesn’t understand its own guidelines.

According to the audit, “procedure is not being followed when determining whether [a report] should be created and reported to FINTRAC.” BCLC said it “recognizes that this has been a repeat finding over the past three years” but says it’s still waiting on a clarification of the guidelines. The Vancouver Sun obtained the audit following a freedom of information (FOI) request, something BCLC has previously spent over half a million dollars of taxpayer money fighting in the courts, leading FOI watchdogs to refer to BCLC’s “shocking record of non-compliance, not only with FOI requests, but with the orders of the [provincial information and privacy] commission to release information.” What was that you were saying about shame, Mr. Graydon?


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