Lottery corporation hires Irish sports betting giant before law change

Pending bill may benefit websites, Hastings Racecourse

Vancouver could look more like Las Vegas by summer.

The Senate is pondering a private members bill to allow provincial monopolies, like the B.C. Lottery Corporation, to take bets on single sporting events. The bill proposed by Joe Comartin (NDP, Windsor-Tecumseh) has passed three readings in the House of Commons.

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Comartin intended to stem the flow of Canadian gamblers to casinos in Michigan, but his bill could also benefit legal websites like PlayNow.com and lift Hastings Racecourses sagging fortunes. Though horse racing is legal across the continent, Nevada is the only jurisdiction that takes bets on single professional and college games.

BCLC and Great Canadian Gaming are, however, keeping their cards close to their vests.

If the government allows single bet wagering like Vegas it would undoubtedly be run by the Crown organizations and perhaps it would be offered similar to off-track race book wagering in place now, said Howard Blank, vice-president of Hastings operator GCG.

BCLC spokeswoman Kim Steinbart said the Crown corporation would look closely at the opportunity. We are focused on enhancing sports betting offerings on PlayNow.com within the current Criminal Code, she said.

PlayNows original July 15, 2010 launch was marred by a security breach. The enhancement coming this summer involves Paddy Power, the Irish retail and online gambling giant that took the equivalent of $6 billion in bets last year.

A prepared statement, attributed to BCLC vice-president Rhonda Garvey, said Paddy Power was chosen because it does not take bets from Canadians and it will help offer a better variety of sports and events to bet on and new ways to bet.

They will able to provide complex odds-setting services, manage and provide odds for global sporting events and offer comprehensive risk modeling, according to Garvey.

Documents obtained via Freedom of Information show the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch licensed Paddy Power for five years as a Class B supplier on Dec. 8, 2011. GPEB exempted Paddy Power from requirements to disclose defaults to creditors, civil lawsuits or criminal or regulatory investigations in other jurisdictions.

The company paid $40,000 in investigation fees before GPEB investigators Kevin Smith and Cam Turner travelled to Dublin July 14 to 23, 2011. GPEB also gathered research on Playtech, Paddy Powers Israeli-founded, Isle of Man-based, British Virgin Islands-registered gambling software contractor.

Paddy Power is notorious for cheeky marketing and promotional stunts. Its annual financial reports have included photos of strip poker and wet T-shirt contestants and rugby match streakers. The company took bets in 2008 on the U.S. presidential election. Two years later, it set odds on airport closures after Icelands Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted and sent ash across Western Europe.

BCLC, which took $48.9 million of Sports Action and $18 million of e-gaming revenue in 2011, wants to compete with gambling websites that skirt the law by using servers on the Kahnawake Mohawk reserve near Montreal and in the tropics.

BCLC anticipates rewards for partnering with Paddy Power, but the risks are significant. The 2007 B.C. Gambling Prevalence Study found 11.9 per cent of gamblers on sports and other events had moderate or severe gambling problems, which was significantly higher than the overall 4.6 per cent rate. The study estimated B.C. had 159,000 problem gamblers, which is nearly three times the capacity of B.C. Place Stadium.

They are always after expanding, said Sandy Garossino of Vancouver Not Vegas coalition. Theyve been reluctant to come to terms with the addiction side of the industry. Sports betting and online especially place young people at risk.

2010goldrush@gmail.com

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