British Columbia

B.C. lottery loophole pays out $100

Some players using the B.C. Lottery Corporation's PlayNow website say they've found either a loophole or a software glitch that's giving them easy money, CBC News has learned

Some people using the B.C. Lottery Corporation's PlayNow website say they've found either a loophole or a software glitch that's giving them easy money, CBC News has learned.

Online gamblers playing baccarat on the site's casino can reliably make almost $100 by playing two hands if they know how, the players say.

A lottery spokesperson said the apparent loophole is actually part of a promotion for the site, in which newly registered players who sign up before Oct. 5 get a $100 bonus deposit in their accounts from the lottery corporation.

Some players say the promotion seems too easy to exploit to be intentional.

If a player deposits $100 of his own money into an account, goes to the baccarat game and bets $50 on both the player and the banker, he essentially breaks even.

Because he has wagered $100, however, he automatically qualifies for the free $100 deposit bonus.

The player then has to play the same bets one more time, in order to be able to cash out their deposit bonus. If the player continues to play at that point, he risks winning or losing, according to the normal terms of the game.

If the player stops at that point, he then has at least $197.50 in his account, after a $2.50 commission. The player can transfer the whole amount to his own bank account and walk away with the extra $97.50 after a few minutes play.

The lottery spokesperson, who declined to be quoted by name, said the $100 bonus works because most players do not cash out after one hand, even if they win.  The explanation that it's a promotional tool doesn't make sense, according to online marketer Todd Maffin.

"I can't imagine this was a marketing ploy," Maffin told CBC News. "To spend almost $100 to get a customer and hope they wouldn't cash out … there are cheaper ways to do it, [such as] buy a Google ad."

Other concerns

There are other reasons to be concerned about the online promotion, said B.C. NDP gaming critic Shane Simpson.

"I have serious concerns about using a $100 incentive to draw people onto this site when we know people already have difficulties around gaming," said Simpson.

The baccarat issue is the latest controversy for the B.C. government's online casino gambling site, the first of its kind in Canada.

PlayNow.com was shut down within days of its July launch for seven weeks after it was found players were inadvertently able to get access to other players' private accounts.

The glitch affected the accounts of 134 players, 12 of whom had personal information viewed by others. Officials did not reveal if any money was misappropriated during the breach.

The lottery corporation lost an estimated $5.4 million during the 36-day shutdown that followed.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said incorrectly that a player needed to play only one hand to exploit the loophole. In fact, a player must play two successive hands to be able to cash out with his or her original money and the bonus cash.
    Sep 29, 2010 3:43 AM PT