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HomeMiscellanyB.C. government to sell booze online and run virtual reality gambling 

B.C. government to sell booze online and run virtual reality gambling 

Bob Mackin

In a quest for more revenue, B.C.’s NDP government is planning to change the way you buy liquor and how you gamble — despite launching a new ministry to battle addictions.

The B.C. Lottery Corporation has a tentative $250,000 no-bid contract through 2019 with a Vancouver studio to develop new virtual reality games.

NDP technology minister Bruce Ralston at Archiact’s studio last August (Facebook)

A notice of intent says that Archiact Interactive Ltd. is the only supplier capable of the assignment “because of their specific focus developing game applications for VR delivery in gaming contexts for an assortment of retail and hospitality networks.”

Competitors have until Jan. 26 to formally challenge the contract. 

Archiact was founded by Frank Shen and Derek Chen. In 2016, they sold a 10% stake in the company for $4.2 million to China-based 37 Interactive Entertainment. 

BCLC is searching for a way to reach millennials amid an aging gambling market. A Sept. 25, 2017 briefing note to Attorney General David Eby, who is responsible for gambling promotion and regulation, said that BCLC’s online gambling portal, PlayNow.com, “has continued to grow year over year while land-based gambling is flat lining.”

Meanwhile, the Liquor Distribution Branch wants to sell booze online like Ontario. 

The Crown alcohol wholesaler and retailer is accepting bids through Feb. 6 for acquisition, implementation, design and ongoing enhancement of an e-commerce software as a service or cloud application solution. LDB’s web store would include the option for home delivery or online reservations and in-store pick-up.

The tender document doesn’t say how soon the public could be clicking and sipping, but it wants phase one of the three-phase program to be up and running this summer.

LDB consultants Forrester Research and Gartner Canada Co., the tender document said, “concluded that an all-in-one [business to business] and [business to consumer] e-commerce software solution is the best approach for the LDB in the beginning stages of developing a digital commerce business. Moreover, an all-in-one e-commerce software solution will ensure that the selected e-commerce software solution will include all major pillars of digital commerce management, experience management, order management, transaction management and product management.” 

Ontario’s Crown liquor giant launched online sales in July 2016 (LCBO).

In B.C., individual stores, like Legacy Liquor Store in the Olympic Village, are allowed to offer online plonk purchasing and beer buying. 

Liquor Depot and Liquor Barn sell online to Albertans via LiquorDirect.ca. The Seattle, Calgary and Edmonton markets are targeted by Drizly.com, which wants to become the Amazon of liquor.  

“Coast to coast, we work with local stores to make the biggest selection and best prices available to you,” says the Boston company’s online sales spiel. “Drizly gives you a better option for shopping beer, wine and liquor in your area. Choose to have it delivered immediately, schedule it for later or pick it up in-store to skip the line. It’s up to you.”

In July 2016, after a three-month internal soft launch, Liquor Control Board of Ontario began selling 5,000 products online, giving customers the option of shipping free to one of the 654 LCBO stores or paying a $12 service charge for home delivery within one-to-three days by Canada Post for orders $50 and up.

Online sales brought-in $7 million in the first year, but LCBO forecasts it to become a $1 billion bonanza within five-to-seven years. 

In November, Advertising Age reported that only 0.2% of beer sales were online last year, but Heineken USA CEO Ronald den Elzen forecast it would grow to 2.4% by 2021 and become “a total system shakeup.” 

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