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Privacy breached on government gambling site

B.C.'s privacy commissioner has confirmed that a breach that compromised users' account details forced the shutdown of the B.C. Lottery Corporation's new online casino just hours after it was launched last week. Read more here.

Technical troubles shut down North America's first legal online casino the day it opened.

But B.C. Lottery Corporation said Monday that it "intends to restore"

BCLC claimed Friday that the site was temporarily offline simply because of too many visitors. The Crown corporation did not return QMI phone calls Monday, but it finally issued a media statement at 6:02 p.m. blaming "high player volumes" that exceeded server capacity on Thursday. The statement said a third-party security review by an undisclosed company found no evidence of hacking.

An email sent more than an hour earlier to account holders, however, explained the troubles in greater detail. BCLC claimed the heavy traffic overloaded servers and caused "data crossover." When gamblers signed in, they were switched into another player's account.

"Information not belonging to that player is then visible, including username, session time, session spend and account balance," said the statement from the Consumer Services department.

BCLC said credit card information was not revealed, but the software allows it to know which accounts were viewed and by whom.

“If the government is going to get into online gaming, they need to protect people’s privacy," said NDP critic Shane Simpson. "People want to be able to trust that their private information, from credit card numbers to gambling histories, is not being compromised.”

The chief executive of the British company that built PlayNow's software said the site crash is not uncommon in online gambling.

“It’s just a case of getting the infrastructure right," said OpenBet's David Loveday. "It’s not the first time this has happened in the industry. It’s unfortunate for all of us, it’s very hard to predict volumes.”

Statistics from show that almost 61 percent of PlayNow traffic came from within Canada, followed by United Kingdom (10.6%), United States (9.6%) and Panama (7.3%). Only British Columbians in the province will be allowed to bet, when PlayNow reopens.

Bob Mackin reports for 24 Hours

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