Some things just need to be said...

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Alberta's Dirty little secret spills into BC

For years now Alberta has been slashing government services, reducing benefits to those in real need and cutting taxes for the well-to-do. Under the cover of oil revenues Alberta saw real gold in gambling and as we know today Albertans gamble more than other Canadians.

The Alberta government has systematically advanced the expansion of gaming to the point it is about 5.5% of government revenues. Now just for a minute consider what that kind of revenue would have meant to the last NDP government in BC. The BC budgets from 1993 to 1999 generally came within 1% or less of being balanced or in deficit. (2000 and 2001 saw large budget surpluses totalling over 2 billion dollars, another well kept secret in BC)

During the 1990s the revenues from gaming in BC contributed approximately 1.5% to 2% to the budget. Had the BC gaming been more advanced as it was in Alberta, the BC Government would have balanced the budget every year.

Today, the BC Liberal government has taken over the expansion the NDP brought to gaming and put it on steroids. Gaming provides 3.6% of budget revenue. To do this BC has expanded the number of casinos (19 - the most in the country), more and more slot machines, high tech bingo halls where you can play almost any form of gaming to betting on horse and sports event half way across the world.

Bingo is long gone from the Church basement. Today it is big business. You can now play Keno in grocery stores, some coffee shops and in bars. Pull tabs are bigger and designed to be more captivating. Most bars have these money grabbing vending machines.

How long will it be before BC starts replacing the pull tabs with Video Lottery terminals or slots? Not long I suspect. The BC Liberals were more than Holy enough when they ran for office in 2001. Promises to stop, cease, curtail gaming expansion went out the window when they looked at the potential revenue.

One significant difference between the Liberal governments growing budget revenues in BC today over the NDP government is the good fortune to come to power as BCs Gaming was maturing, starting to deliver results in big money to the province.

The BC Liberals can thank former Premier Glen Clark, who saw the potential and advanced BC into the modern age of gaming. It is ironic really that Clark is responsible in part for the Liberals balancing their budgets today. No wonder Jimmy Pattison took time out in 1986 to comment on the business savvy of a bright new MLA from Vancouver. Today Clark works for Pattison and it appears he is living up to those expectations delivered almost 20 years ago.

Now of course one can always go online in BC to gamble, the only province in Canada doing this. BC has caught up to Alberta. It will be only a few years and BC will rocket passed Alberta in legalized pick pocketing.

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