BCLC slammed for ignoring own rules in approving online slots

bclc-playnow-slots-approvalBritish Columbia’s provincial gambling monopoly is under fire for failing to live up to its own responsible gaming protocols. On Tuesday, the Canadian Press reported that the British Columbia Lottery Corp (BCLC) had approved online casino games for its PlayNow.com gambling site without performing a mandatory assessment of a game’s impact on problem gamblers. In an internal report obtained via a freedom of information request, BCLC’s audit branch criticized the crown corporation in March for approving online slot games without completing a corporate social responsibility assessment (CSRA). The auditors warned that this failure to complete CSRAs “may lead to initiatives conflicting with corporate social responsibility objectives, and may result in negative public perceptions toward BCLC.” More to the point, the failures could put BCLC in violation of advertising standards laid down by the BC Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch. BCLC spokesperson Angela Koulyras claimed that two PlayNow slots titles submitted for review were approved despite lacking “critical information.” Koulyras said these errors had since been remedied. Koulyras also acknowledged that PlayNow’s Facebook page had failed to display the required responsible gambling messaging. BCLC’s own 2015-16 service plan had admitted that “player awareness of responsible gambling activities was below target.” BCLC’s failure to live up to its lofty standards underscores the inherent conflicts of a cash-hungry government that acts as both regulator and promoter of gambling products. The fact that PlayNow is BCLC’s fastest-growing gaming vertical only encourages the willingness to forego regulations for revenue. Tuesday also saw BCLC announce a new partnership with the National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks to offer an online version of the popular arena-based 50/50 raffles via PlayNow. BCLC CEO Jim Lighbody called the partnership “the first of its kind in the world.” BCLC won’t directly make money from the 50/50 raffle, the profits of which go to the Canucks for Kids Fund. But Lightbody believes the partnership would “raise the awareness for PlayNow.com and attract even more people to come to our site and buy a 50/50 ticket and maybe even something else we’re offering.”