Adrian MacNair: B.C. government gambling site goes up in smoke

Adrian MacNair

July 23, 2010 – 9:51 am

The much-ballyhooed B.C. government gambling website, which cost the provincial government $7.3 million dollars in the hope it would increase gambling revenue by $100 million for the province, failed spectacularly within the first week.

According to media reports, was shut down within hours of launching when overwhelmed by traffic. This was followed up by a privacy breach on Tuesday, with 134 accounts being compromised.

Worse than privacy concerns, it is alleged that a number of users managed to gamble on the site using other users’ money. Failure quite simply doesn’t get more spectacular than that.

The government is still hoping to go ahead with the website, but has vowed to recover the money from the website contractor if they are unable to deliver a working version.

What’s most worrisome is that the government appears to have been doing damage control by lying about the true nature of the crash. Allowing the public to believe it was server capacity, rather than a security breach, goes again to the inability of Premier Gordon Campbell’s government to tell the truth when faced with a crisis.

As Michael Smyth points out in the Province, the man responsible for promoting the website is the same man responsible for policing problem gambling in British Columbia. While Rich Coleman insists the problems are not as great as reported, one can’t help but think of the expression “the fox guarding the hen house.”

As I intimated in my radio interview about this topic last week, I was concerned about a provincial online gambling site that claimed to be able to keep the good guys in, and the bad guys out. Protecting the personal information of British Columbians, keeping track of users’ money, and trying to keep global hackers at bay, is a tall order to fill. Too tall for Campbell’s government, apparently.

The jury is still out on whether it’s ethical to simultaneously lecture on the ills of problem gambling, while providing an online service that is likely to draw in those same gamblers. It is altogether more worrying when the government makes clear it can’t run a website that protects the privacy of its users and security against abuse.

Let’s face it. The B.C. Liberals have abandoned any pretense of ethics in their scramble for cash, no matter the social or financial cost to others.

National Post

Adrian MacNair is a Vancouver writer and blogger. Read more here.

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