Virgin Gaming is Toronto-based online gaming company backed by Richard Branson's Virgin brand
Virgin Gaming opens an office in Charlottetown. Company officials are seen here with Virgin founder, Sir Richard Branson. Pictured from left to right, Bill Levy (President, Co- founder), Rob Segal (CEO), Sir Richard Branson and Zack Zeldin (VP Game Operations, Co-founder).
Giving support to tech company Virgin Gaming through a program meant to help entrepreneurs is a misuse of the funds, says Tignish-Palmer Road MLA Hal Perry.
Perry said he supports bringing new businesses to P.E.I., but he questions whether or not Virgin Gaming meets the Launchpad program's criteria.
"That's for P.E.I. entrepreneurs to give that them little bit of a boost," he said.
Virgin Gaming is a Toronto-based online service through which people can play video games head-to-head and in tournaments for real money.
The company has partnered with several gaming companies to make their titles available for play.
It's backed by businessman Richard Branson's Virgin brand.
Last week the province announced Virgin Gaming was expanding to P.E.I. and planned to hire 35 people for customer service jobs with support from provincial labour rebates and the Launchpad program.
The Launchpad website says early stage businesses in targeted sectors that have well-developed business concepts or business plans but aren't yet profitable are eligible for the program.
They have to show the potential to commercialize new technologies, export new products and services to target markets, create new jobs and wealth in P.E.I., and strengthen the province's economy.
Perry raised the issue during Thursday's question period and in an interview he said that by the government saying Virgin Gaming will create jobs in the information technology sector it was misrepresenting what those jobs actually are.
"These actually are customer service representative jobs which are $10, $12, $14 at the most an hour," he said.
The government has also been misrepresenting the fact Virgin Gaming is involved in gambling, Perry said.
"This government is supporting a business that targets our youth and feeding a potential addiction to gambling."
But Innovation Minister Al Roach said there is more to Virgin Gaming than just gambling and the company will have a customer service operation in P.E.I.
"We're not running a gambling operation out of here," he said.
A lot of the games that Virgin Gaming supports can be played head-to-head without gambling, although some do involve money, he said.
"There are other programs there where they can gamble, yes."
Roach also said Virgin Gaming does qualify for the Launchpad program.
"Prince Edward Island is open for business and we're happy to have companies that are going to come here that are going to create jobs," he said.
Virgin Gaming already had a presence in P.E.I. and has been working with VisionQuest in P.E.I. for one year and employed four people, Roach said.
"This is just an expansion really of that and they've decided that they're going to expand that business."
Roach said the average salary at Virgin Gaming is around $35,000, which means the employees in P.E.I. won't be all making minimum wage.