Gov't Still Open to Slots on Ferries Despite Dozens of Obstacles

'I thought it had been ruled out,' says NDP critic of proposal.

By Andrew MacLeod 23 Oct 2014 |

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative bureau chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

The British Columbia government is still considering putting slot machines or other chances to gamble on BC Ferries, but has made little progress, Transportation Minister Todd Stone said.

"Nothing new to update other than to say discussions continue," said Stone, noting his ministry has been talking with BC Ferries, the BC Lotteries Corporation and the ministry of finance. "We're still working our way through all of the details of what that project could look like."

Last week, The Tyee reported that documents obtained through a freedom of information request showed BC Ferries and the ministry of transportation brought the proposal to cabinet and announced it publicly in Nov. 2013 without consulting with the ministry of finance, which regulates gambling in the province, or the BCLC, which manages the industry.

The documents detailed a dozen concerns, including possible violations of the federal Criminal Code, a need to re-write provincial gambling laws, the contradiction with the province's commitment to limit gambling, and the likely need to consult with municipalities, the Union of B.C. Municipalities, First Nations and the United States.

Asked about those details, Stone said, "I actually haven't had a list or a summary of a proposed project put on my desk yet with recommendations about options and so forth, so it's too early for me to say it's overly complex. I'll wait until I have some recommendations."

Minister beyond his limit: NDP

The plan to limit the increase in ferry fares was first announced nearly a year ago, but not finalized until February, Stone said. The announcement included several things, including some that could be done right away and others that required more diligence, he said.

The NDP's critic for transportation, Claire Trevena, said she was surprised to hear Stone recently mention in the legislature that the government is still considering putting slot machines on ferries. "I thought it had been ruled out," she said. "The sense I had was it had gone to the backburner."

It's clear Stone made the announcement without discussing practical things like staffing, where to locate machines and what technical requirements might be involved, she said.

The minister has no understanding of what he's doing, Trevena said. "Isn't it 'Know your limit and stay within it?' I think he's well beyond his limit."

The fact that Stone thinks the plan is okay and might still be approved despite the numerous concerns raised by the finance ministry is difficult to believe, she said.

The ministry and BC Ferries announced in 2013 that it would start by putting slot machines on the Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen route. Documents previously obtained from the BCLC through FOI showed they were looking at putting them on as many as five routes.  [Tyee]

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