Saturday, July 17, 2010

What's next for B.C. government? Online porn?

No sooner had the B.C. Lottery Corp.'s new online casino been launched into cyberspace than, whoops, it crashed yesterday, brought to earth by the sheer weight of passengers climbing on board.

Never fear, gamblers. Won't be grounded long, not with all that money in your wallets waiting to be swallowed by a cash-starved provincial government. Just like the Liberals swallowed their principles when they turned to online gambling in the first place.

Remember, the Liberals were elected in 2001 on a platform that included a promise to "halt the expansion of gambling that has increased gambling addiction and put new strains on families."

Apparently those families were doing just fine by the time the Liberals actually took office though, because the provincial government immediately dropped its objections faster than Harry Homeowner dropping the mortgage money on a poker table. What a relief. Glad those families are OK.

Indeed, gambling revenue has pretty much doubled under the Liberals. The government now pulls in more than $1 billion a year (which didn't prevent it from cutting its gaming grants to non-profits to $120 million, down $36 million).

If this week's initial overload is any indication, the province's take will climb even higher following the launch of, billed as the first sanctioned online casino in North America.

The Liberals performed some impressive mental gymnastics to rationalize the expansion. Their argument goes like this: Online gambling is happening anyway. There's nothing we can do to stop it. British Columbians are spending about $100 million a year on illegal online gambling (a number so big and round that it sounds more like a guess than a real estimate), so better that we keep the money inside the province -- where the profits can be spent on highways, hospitals and MLAs' $61 food per diem -- than see it go to some foreign Al Capone.

Not a bad argument, or at least a convenient one. It was first used by the provincial government when it turned liquor stores into a state monopoly after prohibition -- though British Columbians were never bombarded with go-get-drunk ads the way they are subjected to gambling commercials.

But consider this: The B.C. Medical Association released a study last year that estimated 33,000 British Columbians have a severe addiction to illicit drugs. By comparison, 159,000 have a gambling problem, including 31,000 with a severe addiction. Then there are the 344,000 with indications of alcohol addiction, including the 120,000 with "a high probability of alcohol dependence."

"While we tend to think of addiction in terms of illicit drugs, addiction to alcohol and gambling are far more prevalent," BCMA president Dr. Bill Mackie said.

For those keeping score at home, that would be the alcohol and gambling being sold to you by your government. Maybe Big Benevolent Brother should take over the narcotics market, too, just to save us from the gangstas. Given the province's record, we would all be crackheads by Christmas.

And why stop there? If we're going to adopt the government-is-the-lesser-of-two-evils argument when it comes to gambling, might as well extend the logic to other areas of questionable morality, too.

Googling the word "porn" on my computer (actually, I used Dave Obee's computer, just in case the Times Colonist IT Police were watching) brought up 327 million sites. Must be a lot of money in porn. Better that it go to the government, where it can pay for granny's hip replacement, than to some less-virtuous destination.

Prostitution might prove to be a nice little earner for the province, too. Ditto for the sale of endangered-animals parts. Hey, someone is going to do it, might as well be us, right?


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I have been a resident of Coldstream since 1976. I have had 15 years of experience on Council, 3 years as Mayor. As a current Councillor I am working to achieve fair water and sewer rates and to ensure that taxpayers get fair treatment. The current direction regarding water supply is unsustainable and I am doing all I can to get the most cost effective water supply possible.