We’ve heard time and again how land-based and online casinos all over the world aim to help problem gamblers, offering a self-exclusion list that anyone can put themselves on during a moment of clarity. BC Canada casinos are no different. Anyone who joins the self-exclusion list is no longer able to gamble at that casino, or any casinos associated with the operation. That’s how it works, right? Not according to Joy Ross.
Ms. Ross of North Delta is suing the British Columbia Lottery Corp. (BCLC), which controls all gambling initiatives, both land-based and online (PlayNow.com), throughout the province. Among them are two BC Canada casinos that she says allowed her to enter and gamble away almost a third of a million dollars – even though she had previously penned her name on the self-exclusion list.
According to the law suit filed in the Supreme Court of Canada, casinos under the supervision of the BCLC were negligent, resulting in the Joy’s loss of $331,000. The litigation names the BCLC, Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Ltd (proprietor of Langley’s Cascades Casino) and Orangeville Raceway Ltd (proprietor of Cloverdale’s Fraser Downs Casino).
“From our perspective,” said Jim Hanson, the plaintiff’s attorney, who pointed out that no suit of this nature has ever gone to judgment in Canada, “the case involves the rights and responsibilities of the government and casino industries in relation to addictive gamblers who have excluded themselves of the casinos of British Columbia.” Hanson added that, “The casinos and government owed addicted gamblers a duty of care once they have placed themselves on the exclusion lists and that duty of care was breached.”
The problem doesn’t lie within the concept of the self-exclusion list, but in the way it is (or isn’t) enforced. According to Ross, she had no problem getting around the exclusion factor by simply providing a false name. Her goal in the case is to get the self-exclusion policy at BC Canada casinos “either scrapped or enforced”. She says that, “The problem becomes that people like myself rely on programs like that and by the time you get into it, your addiction is really ingrained.”
Even more vexing to Hanson and his client is the way the BCLC handles excluded players. Under the current guidelines, a player who is caught gambling after placing themselves on the self-exclusion list can be fined up to $5,000 and becomes ineligible to win any major prizes.
What message does this send? ‘If you can bypass the program, you can lose any amount of money you want, but if you win, you don’t get to keep it; oh yeah, and you also owe us another $5k in fines.’
Hanson spoke at length regarding these erroneous guidelines, noting that “it’s a stark example of the house always wins.”
The BCLC didn’t have much to say on the matter, except that out of respect for the courts, they wouldn’t be discussing the case in any detailed format. The spokesperson did say that “the BCLC takes its obligations very seriously. We offer the voluntary self-exclusion program as a voluntary resource for people who wish to exclude themselves from B.C. gaming venues and PlayNow.com.”
The spokesperson also made sure to point out that “BCLC has complied with the Responsible Gambling Standards set out by the province’s Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch in regard to voluntary exclusion.”
Perhaps it’s time for BC Canada casinos to have a talk with the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch about enhancing its Responsible Gaming Standards.