If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
That is the message from the B.C. Lottery Corporation, after it increased the limit that gamblers can keep in their PlayNow.com account from $9,999 to $250,000 — an increase of 2,400%. They can also transfer up to $100,000 per week, also a substantial 900% increase from the previous $9,999 limit.
The government gambling monopoly quietly announced on its website Feb. 5 that it would make changes so that PlayNow.com could “compete with unregulated online sites operating in B.C.” The company claimed that more than half of gamblers on the PlayNow.com website limit their weekly deposits to $100 or less.
BCLC claims it is trying to lure gamblers away from unregulated, grey market websites by expanding the appeal of the regulated PlayNow.com with its built-in safeguards aimed at stopping crime and addiction.
Online gambling is illegal according to the Criminal Code, unless offered by a provincial monopoly like BCLC. But authorities have shied away from prosecuting companies from various jurisdictions that target British Columbians. Single-event wagering remains, in both casinos and online, remains illegal in Canada.
The increases fly in the face of the NDP’s stance while in opposition.
More than a decade ago, the NDP blasted the BC Liberal government for upping the weekly limit from $120 to $9,999, a jump of more than 8,200%. Then-NDP critic Shane Simpson told reporters in August 2009 that it was “unacceptable” and indicative of a government cash-grab that could have negative impacts.
“This has been done with no consultation, as I can see, with people who are concerned about problem gambling,” Simpson said at the time. In 2014, the B.C. Problem Gambling Prevalence Study concluded that problem gamblers are significantly more likely to gamble at casinos, in private games, on sporting events, bingo and online.
Since gaining power in the summer of 2017, the NDP government has sent letters to online gambling companies asking them to stop targeting B.C. gamblers. It also tried to encourage other provinces to join in a complaint to advertising standards regulators against grey market gambling companies that use free-to-play dot net websites as a marketing loophole to encourage gambling on similarly branded dot-com sites.
A spokesman for Attorney General David Eby, who is responsible for BCLC, said his office was too busy to reply to questions from theBreaker.news on Feb. 6, because it was focused on the ICBC no fault insurance announcement.
Meanwhile, BCLC is planning to hold its annual New Horizons in Responsible Gambling conference March 10-12 at the Parq Casino in downtown Vancouver.
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