B.C. Lottery Corp ignored cheap solution for problem gamblers
There are more than 100,000 problem gamblers in B.C., and the system in place to help them stay out of casinos isn't working – but one technology firm says there's an easy fix to the problem.
Casinos in the province currently use the "self-exclusion program," a treatment option that lets gambling addicts sign a pledge to stay away. In turn, the casino can remove the person from the premises, deny the gambler his or her winnings, and the government can issue fines.
But a CTV News hidden camera investigation showed the program doesn't work very well. One gambling addict faced zero resistance as he entered four different casinos and left with his winnings. Premier Gordon Campbell and Housing Minister Rich Coleman say they want something done, but the B.C. Lottery Corporation isn't convinced there's a fail-safe option.
"We can't catch everyone. It's impossible. We put $1-million into licence plate technology this past year," spokesman Paul Smith said.
Vancouver-based TreoScope Technologies, which is being the Bar Watch program that keeps gangsters out of bars, disagrees. Founder Owen Cameron says casinos could simply start scanning patrons' IDs, a process that would be much cheaper than the millions casinos are spending on facial recognition and licence plate technology.
"The hardward we sell for about $5,000, but what they pay us is $150 a month," Cameron said.
TreoScope has been in talks with the provincial lottery companies in Alberta and Ontario, but not B.C. Smith says it's because the Canadian public has not indicated they're "supportive" of the idea.
Asked if they have any information to back that claim up, a spokesperson for the corporation admitted they have never done a survey.
One reason could be the money at stake. Studies in Ontario estimate the five per cent of problem gamblers contribute some 36 per cent of gaming revenue – which amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars.
But B.C.'s casinos could face lawsuits for failing to keep out addicts who ask for help. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation has already paid out more than $1-million to settle lawsuits filed by problem gamblers.
CTV recently confirmed that Coleman and BCLC agreed to review the self-exclusion program, and will consider scanning IDs – but there has been no decision yet.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jon Woodward