Not any more

B.C. online casino problems fixed

In Canada on August 19, 2010 at 22:23

British Columbia’s stumbling expansion of Internet-based casino gaming was to make its second debut online Thursday evening after a preliminary investigation into a security breach on PlayNow.com concluded the problems are now patched up.

The expansion was touted by the B.C. government as the first legal, online casino gambling in North America, but the embarrassing glitch derailed the BC Lottery Corporation’s entire online gaming program for more than a month, racking up losses of more than $5-million.

The online casino-style program was launched on July 15 and within hours the lottery corporation heard complaints that some customers were able to view the personal information of other users, and some were placing bets with other players’ money.

“It was really a series of unique events,” said Michael Graydon, president and CEO of BCLC. The data crossover was blamed on a default setting in the new server software, combined with website “performance issues” and a high volume of traffic.

Mr. Graydon told reporters during a conference call that he is confident the publicly owned corporation will make up its losses “as we regain the confidence of our customers.”

An investigation concluded that 134 player accounts were involved and of those, 12 accounts had personal information viewed by another player. Mr. Graydon said all the accounts have been reconciled. Credit monitoring is being provided to those whose financial information was revealed.

In the meantime, the 140,000 customers who have online accounts with PlayNow.com will have access to their money for the first time in 35 days. Customers had the option to have their accounts closed and a cheque refunded, but Mr. Graydon would not say how many asked for their money back.

He said he hoped customers won’t lose faith, noting that the lottery corporation has provided other online services for six years without incident. “Earning and keeping their trust is essential,” he said.

NDP opposition critic Shane Simpson said the computer glitch shows the corporation – and by extension the B.C. government – rushed greedily into online casino gambling.

“They didn’t do due diligence and so they have this debacle,” Mr. Simpson said. “Now we’ll have to wait for the Privacy Commissioner to finish her investigation, then we’ll know whether they were too hasty, again, to get it back up online.”

The corporation announced the site would be revived just five hours after the relaunch was approved by Elizabeth Denham, B.C.’s Information and Privacy Commissioner. In a letter to Mr. Graydon, the commissioner concluded the specific problem with data crossover has been remedied.

Ms. Denham noted that online gamblers do take risks by providing their financial information to play, and said she continues to conduct a broader investigation into the corporation’s risk management of its Internet technologies.

“The nature of these websites exposes personal information to greater risk,” she wrote. She also promised to continue to monitor the PlayNow.com network to ensure the repairs are secure and stable.

While the B.C. Liberals opposed expanding gambling while in opposition, as government they have presided over a significant increase in slots and other gambling opportunities.

British Columbians spend an estimated $100-million on online gambling sites each year, and the province wanted to capture a share of that cash.

Unable to resist the potentially rich revenue stream, the Ontario government announced earlier this month it also intends to launch online gambling opportunities by 2012.

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