Failed gaming site cost $7.3 million: minister
Published Thursday, July 22, 2010 5:19PM PDT
The cost of PlayNow.com, a high-profile gambling website that turned into a high-profile flop, was budgeted at $7.3 million dollars, the province's gaming minister told CTV News.
But Minister Rich Coleman said that some of that money could be returned to taxpayers if the province finds the company contracted to create the site, OpenBet, failed to live up to terms in its contract.
"In this case, it didn't work. It's embarrassing for everyone, including the minister," Coleman told a scrum outside an unrelated press conference.
"(The company) has a contract with us to perform," Coleman said. "We have expectations that if someone provides a service that isn't complete we'll go back at them."
When it was launched last week, PlayNow.com was meant to be a legal alternative to an illegal gambling industry that sucks $100 million out of British Columbia each year. Coleman confirmed today that the budgeted cost was $7.3 million.
Within hours, it was shut down. The B.C. Lottery Corporation initially said that the site was overwhelmed by traffic when it collapsed hours after its glitzy launch from a Granville Island theatre.
Then on Tuesday BCLC admitted that it knew as early as Friday that 134 accounts had sensitive personal information viewed by another user. Some 12 accounts had financial information revealed.
At the same time, a number of users were able to gamble with some $8,000 of other users' money.
Right now, engineers from British company OpenBet are going through the code line by line, and officials have promised several security checks and privacy checks before the website goes back online.
BCLC maintains that the glitches happened because too many people wanted to gamble, but computer expert Rui Pereira isn't so sure.
"It wouldn't be consistent and long-term enough for me to gamble with other people's money," Pereira said.
He says he thinks that the "session data crossover" was instead caused by a structural problem with the coding, pointing to a website posting that said, "There's no such thing as a data crossover. There is such a thing as a poorly programmed and insufficiently tested application."
He said an application development platform named WebSphere has a simple setting that would have caught a session data crossover before gamblers' money was put at risk.
"It essentially is a free switch they could have turned on with a slight loss of performance," he said.
But now that the website is down, there's no easy fix.
"It is an effort. It isn't simply a case of doing it over a weekend. It can take months," Pereira said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jon Woodward