Lottery honcho wins sweepstakes

B.C. Lottery Corporation president and chief executive officer Vic Poleschuk was paid $442,667.48 in the 2005-06 financial year, plus another $64,874.04 for expenses, according to the Crown corporation’s statements of salaries and expenses required under the Financial Information Act.

After the Georgia Straight left a phone message with BCLC corporate communications officer Shelley Marsh asking for a breakdown of Poleschuk’s remuneration, Marsh replied via e-mail that the CEO’s base salary was $274,999.92. His bonus amounted to $87,037.50, and another $80,630.06 was for unused vacation time, car allowance, and other taxable benefits, the e-mail said.

Testifying before the legislature’s select standing committee on Crown corporations on December 5, BCLC chairman John McLernon said Poleschuk’s pay is “very, very fair,” given the size of the company. McLernon told the committee that the corporation’s profit last year was $1 billion.

From 2004–05, Poleschuk’s base salary remained unchanged, Mc ­Lernon told the committee, according to Hansard.

“I don’t know”¦what [other] billion-dollar or two-billion-dollar company you would find that has a base salary of that level,” said McLernon, who also chairs BC Rail.

“Bonusing is set out with specific criteria, based on hitting certain targets,” McLernon told the committee. “I think the president can earn a target bonus of 30 percent. So based on what he has, the maximum he can earn is 30 percent to a maximum of 45 percent against performance and achievement results.”

“We have to look at what outside people would pay somebody like our CEO,” McLernon said, according to the transcript. “But, basically, our hands are tied by government. There are top levels and there’s the marketplace. I think it’s very, very fair.”

Referring to Poleschuk’s expenses, McLernon said: “We’re talking about a very senior executive in a very big company. A large part of it is travel. Some is the travel from head office [in Kamloops] to Vancouver. Once in a while there’s travel to find out what’s happening in the industry.”

At the meeting, New Democrat MLA John Horgan asked McLernon to provide the details of Poleschuk’s “bonus triggers”.

In reply, McLernon said there were “three or four key bonus triggers”, which he promised to send to the committee.

Asked by the Straight in a phone message following the meeting to provide a copy of Poleschuk’s bonus scheme, BCLC’s Marsh replied by e-mail, saying she was working on the Straight’s request. “I will get them to you as soon as possible,” the e-mail said. It did not arrive by the Straight’s deadline.

Horgan told the Straight on December 11 that he had yet to receive the information, and added that Poleschuk’s compensation is generous. “He’s winning the lottery without having to buy a ticket,” he said, adding that BCLC has a captive market.

According to the company’s statement of salaries, a total of 28 BCLC staff earned more than $100,000 last year, not including expenses.

All seven vice presidents were paid more than $200,000.

Jay-Ann Fordy, vice-president for human resources and organizational development, was paid $212,181.73, plus another $44,276.21 for expenses; corporation communications and marketing vice president Kevin Gass received $207,118.65, in addition to expenses totalling $33,944.73.

Lottery gaming vice-president Jim Lightbody collected $231,743.30, plus expenses of $25,747.87; casino gaming vice president Brian Lynch was paid $245,717.32, and expenses of $46,699.13.

BCLC’s chief information officer and vice president for information technology, Scott Norman, got $221,769.84, and $47,244.51 in expenses; Doug Penrose, the ?finance and corporate services vice-president, collected $255,321.03 and $34,373.41 for expenses; and bingo gaming vice-president Marsha Walden was paid $201,911.65, plus $28,350.17 for expenses.

Expenses include travel, accommodation, professional development, ?relocation, and membership dues. The ?company’s total salary bill came to $38.04 million.

Meanwhile, thanks in part to a 29-percent increase in revenue from B.C.’s 6,307 slot machines, last year the corporation brought in $2.26 billion in revenue, according to its annual report. That compares with $2.03 billion for 2004-05.

BCLC spent $4.5 million last year on programs to treat problem gamblers.

The province’s 22 casinos produced the biggest share of revenue, bringing BCLC $1.085 billion, followed by lotteries at $967 million and bingo at $208 million.

The highest-earning casino was River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond, whose 918 slot machines and 110 tables brought BCLC revenue of more than $215 million, up from about $188 million in 2004-05.

Revenue from BCLC’s new “PlayNow” program, allowing customers to play on-line, jumped to $5.2 million. (During a presentation at a Vancouver Board of Trade event at the Four Seasons Hotel on June 10, 2003, Poleschuk described those who offered games of chance “illegally over the Internet” as “pirates and buccaneers”.) But even though more than 30,000 people played on-line last year, Internet revenue was less than half the $10.5 million that the corporation had budgeted for.

Last year, the equivalent of four of every five adult British Columbians bought at least one lottery ticket, and three out of 10 visited a casino here. The average British Columbian spent a net amount of $427.90 on gambling last year, once the returns from prizes are counted.