B.C. casinos get ID scanners
Jon Woodward, ctvbc.ca
Published Tuesday, July 19, 2011 8:38AM PDT
Three months after a CTV News investigation showed three out of four major casinos weren't checking IDs for minors, the BC Lottery Corporation is rolling out a solution: ID-scanning machines.
While the American-made machines can calculate age and detect fake IDs, critics say the machines can't solve BCLC's other problem -- keeping out problem gamblers from B.C. casinos.
The machines, supplied by California company Tricom Card Technologies, are already in action at Grand Villa Casino in Burnaby, and BCLC has spent $45,000 on 50 more to be placed in gaming facilities throughout B.C.
The purchase is a direct response to a CTV News investigation in May. Two 18-year-olds wearing a hidden camera attempted to gain access to four casinos. While they were ID'd at Grand Villa casino, they weren't at Edgewater, Boulevard and Starlight casinos, where they were able to gamble and purchase alcohol.
At the time, B.C.'s solicitor general ordered BCLC to fix the problem, and identification-checking machines were one of the solutions posed, along with more staff to check IDs and changes to the entrances that made it harder for customers to slip through.
The machines read the magnetic stripe on a driver's licence, which contains information such as a drivers' licence number, and calculates age. In order to comply with B.C.'s privacy legislation, the machines do not keep any information on file.
But that means lost opportunities when it comes to keeping problem gamblers out of B.C. casinos, according to lawyer Jim Hanson, who represents several gambling addicts suing BCLC and casinos.
Gambling addicts can sign up for BCLC's self-exclusion program, where problem gamblers agree to be banned from casinos. BCLC tries to keep them out, but often fails, taking huge amounts of their money in profit while ruining their lives.
In a CTV News investigation last year, not a single casino stopped a CTV producer who signed up for the program as part of a test.
"It's not good enough," Hanson said, adding that he's disappointed that some of the functions that could help, such as comparing the driver's licence number to a list of banned individuals, have been disabled.
Even if the function was turned on, the machines can only handle a list of about 2,000 names. There are about 6,500 people signed up to the self-exclusion program in B.C.
Software similar to what BarWatch uses to keep gangsters from Vancouver bars would help, said Owen Cameron of Treoscope, the local company behind the software.
Treoscope's software was ruled compliant by B.C.'s privacy commissioner, partially because it didn't use drivers' licence numbers to create profiles of people, which the privacy commissioner felt was problematic.
BCLC representatives said they are waiting for a report from the B.C. solicitor general on the self-exclusion program before acting. That report is in its final stages, ministry spokespeople said.
But gambling addicts say they need help sooner.
"Gambling addiction is a mental health issue and they need to do something fast," said one client, Joy Ross, whose gambling debts soared to more than $300,000 while she was on the self-exclusion program. "It's not right."