Putting slot machines on BC Ferries vessels would cost the provincial government more money than it would make, and could delay sailings and increase problem gambling.
It could also lead to children being left unattended, be hindered by network outages, require legislative changes and prompt a call from Washington State to split the revenue.
And so, faced with these and other cons, and seemingly few pros, in a report from the B.C. Lottery Corp., the province on Monday said it will abandon its plan for a marine slot machine pilot project, an idea it floated a year and a half ago.
"Ultimately, the costs, risks and procedural changes required to operate [electronic gambling devices] on a BC Ferries vessel outweigh the financial gains of this business opportunity," the lottery corporation wrote in its report for the province.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone announced the province was considering the pilot project in November, 2013. The money raised would be reinvested in the ferry system and reduce the need for fare increases.
The lottery corporation's report was prepared for the province in October, but not released until Monday's announcement. It said that, in addition to other problems, the government would lose about $240,000 each year.
Mr. Stone said in an interview that the government has made a commitment to coastal British Columbians to do everything it can "to wrestle fares down to the ground." He said the idea for slot machines came out of a public engagement session and was worth considering.
"What I can say from my previous life in business and now a minister in government is, when you start cherry-picking ideas on the surface without doing any analysis, you're going to make a mistake and you're going to lose out on what could potentially be a tremendous opportunity," he said. "… At the end of the day, I make decisions based on facts, not before I've got the facts."
The minister said it was not too long ago that the idea of having some vessels run on liquid natural gas was "considered a long shot."
"We stuck with that one. We urged BC Ferries at every opportunity we could to take a look at it. They did, and guess what? It's feasible. And it's not just feasible, it's extremely viable, and it's going to save the corporation $12-million a year for 27 years," he said.
Deborah Marshall, a BC Ferries spokeswoman, said the slot-machine idea just did not make financial sense.
"When you look at how big some of these casinos are and how many machines they have, and when you look at the footprint where we could put some slot machines, it's just not a big enough footprint," she said in an interview.
Ms. Marshall said BC Ferries will focus on expanding the gift shops on some of its vessels. She said the company generates about $50-million through its catering and retail services and feels "that there's more opportunity there to generate extra money that doesn't come from the fare box."
John Horgan, Leader of the Opposition B.C. New Democratic Party, said keeping slot machines off ferries is the right thing to do.
"I don't think we need to have a floating casino," he told reporters.
"…We need a viable transportation option that's affordable for regular British Columbians. The challenges at BC Ferries are well known, and I don't think you solve that by having a captive audience for an hour and 45 minutes across the Salish Sea, trying to make slot machines viable."
The 22-page report concluded the revenue from slot machines would "not be significant enough to generate a return on investment due to significant costs related to BC Ferries staffing, equipment installation and IT infrastructure."
The report said the disembarking of passengers could be delayed, and noted "research indicates that features of [electronic gambling devices] have been shown to contribute to gambling problems."
It also said travelling through marine areas could cause the network connection to be lost, and a legislative amendment would likely be needed to allow gambling on ferries. And, since some vessels pass through U.S. waters, the report said Washington State might want B.C. to share the revenue.