Monday, April 2, 2012

Government's gambling secrets

This time last year, Vancouver city hall was the site of the 2011 version of the great casino debate. Council eventually turned down the Paragon Gaming proposal to expand its Edgewater Casino to a site next to B.C. Place Stadium. The company is allowed to relocate the casino, if it wishes. No word yet on whether that will ever happen.

Part of the reason why the Vancouver Not Vegas coalition succeeded in defeating the expansion was new information about gambling-related crime. Now I have more.

While the B.C. government's Liquor Control and Licensing Branch proactively publishes compliance and enforcement reports on which bars and restaurants flout liquor laws, it's not so easy to get information from the parallel agency, Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch. GPEB thinks the names and locations of licensed gambling and lottery establishments that break laws and regulations should be kept secret, whereas LCLB names names. Why is the government reasonably transparent on the booze side and not on the gambling side? Maybe because the profits are higher in gambling, where the government holds the cards through its legislated monopoly.

Anyway, I had to push hard to get documents about the government's enforcement of illegal underage gambling. I actually had to file a supplementary Freedom of Information request when the Solicitor General's ministry claimed it would take too much time and money to compile a list of violations of the section of the act that makes it illegal to sell gambling products to those under the age of 19.

Funny enough, they did have a list, for the period of Jan. 1-Nov. 29, 2011! And it offers more information (albeit often vague) about B.C.'s gambling problems.

More British Columbia gambling crime reports

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Time ticking for Nine O'Clock Gun

The end is nigh for the Nine O'Clock Gun in Vancouver's Stanley Park.

The most famous sound of the city, heard around the region every night, is to be immediately replaced. A staff report to the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation cites the cannon's connotations of war and violence, along with increasing maintenance costs.

Vancouver's Nine O'Clock Gun (Xenyx at en.wikipedia)
It recommends the Vision Vancouver-majority board approve an open-microphone and long-range acoustic device be used instead to transmit a different live or recorded sound nightly for five seconds or less.

"Just as B.C. Place Stadium can change the colour of its exterior lights on a nightly basis, the sound heard around Metro Vancouver at 9 p.m. every evening can and should be different," the staff report said. "This will further enhance the city and region's character and offer new creative and promotional opportunities to the arts and cultural community."

A list of potential sounds includes a Buddhist temple gong, Vancouver Canucks' goal fanfare, Bryan Adams' guitar riff, Sarah McLachlan warble, Nardwuar the Human Serviette's "Doot-doola-doot-do," an excerpt from a Southsiders' chant, the lion roar sound effect from B.C. Lions' games, the Hastings Racecourse bugle fanfare, a dog whistle, ahooga horn and whoopee cushion.

The project would come at no cost to taxpayers, because one sound every month would be sold to a corporation. The report offered the Intel chime or Nokia ring tone as examples of such commercial sounds that would put money into city coffers for operation of the microphone and LRAD and area landscaping.

The staff report proposes selling the cannon to the highest bidder on the e-Bay auction website, but recommends against using Craigslist.

The gun is said to be a naval type, 12-pound muzzle-loader that was cast in 1816 by H&C King in the London, England borough of Woolwich during the reign of King George III. It was brought to Vancouver around 1894 and fired for the first time here on Oct. 5, 1898 to aid marine navigators. In 1969, University of B.C. Engineers briefly kidnapped the Nine O'Clock Gun. In 2008 they painted it red. It was restored for the city's 1986 centennial. The sound of the blast has carried as far away as Mission.

The pavilion, designed by architect Gregory Henriquez, will remain and house both the microphone and LRAD.

The city's noon-time O Canada horns at Canada Place will remain as-is. Those were originally installed at the B.C. Electric Building, but are now the custody of a federal Crown corporation.

A news conference is planned for beside the Nine O'Clock Gun at Hallelujah Point in Stanley Park just before noon on April 1st.

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