Gambling in British Columbia was limited to the Western Canadian lottery and parimutuel wagering on horse races before the Canadian Federal Government stepped in and changed things.
In 1985, the Canadian Government decreed provincial governments had the exclusive right to provide gambling inside provincial borders. The Canadian Criminal Code was amended and provinces interested in gambling set up regulatory bodies to oversee provincial gambling operations.
In British Columbia, this responsibility was handed over to the newly formed British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC). This Crown Corporation is now responsible for all regulating gaming activities in the province. Gambling in British Columbia is ultimately governed by the provincial Gaming Control Act. However, the BCLC manages and conducts all commercial gambling, including online gambling, in British Columbia on behalf of the provincial government.
Charitable gambling in the province is licensed by the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch of the provincial government, with regulatory oversight provided by the BCLC.
The British Columbia Lottery Corporation powers
The BCLC also has the power to:
- develop, organize, and operate gaming on behalf of the province
- enter into agreements with the the federal government or other provincial governments to conduct and manage gaming operations
- supply services, software and other technology equipment or supplies related to gaming
- set the rules of play for any lottery or casino games
- monitor compliance by other gaming services providers
The BCLC provides commercial gaming services in the province including:
- Internet gambling
Casino table games, poker, bingo, slot machines, lottery tickets, and PlayNow.com, the province’s only regulated online gambling site, are among the ways people in British Columbia can gamble. The province is also home to five horse racing race tracks and numerous off-track teletheatres, offering parimutuel wagering on horse races.
British Columbia casinos
There are currently 16 casino properties operating in communities across British Columbia. These include:
- Burnaby – Grand Villa Casino
- Coquitlam – Hard Rock Casino Vancouver
- Cranbrook – Casino of the Rockies
- Kamloops – Lake City Casino Kamloops
- Kelowna – Lake City Casino Kelowna
- Langley – Cascades Casino
- Nanaimo – Great Canadian Casino Nanaimo
- New Westminster – Starlight Sports Bar
- Prince George – Treasure Cove Casino and Hotel
- Quesnel – Billy Barker Casino Hotel
- Richmond – River Rock Casino Resort
- Surrey – Fraser Downs Racetrack & Casino
- Vancouver – Parq (Edgewater Casino)
- Vancouver – Hastings Racecourse
- Vernon – Lake City Casino Vernon
- Victoria – Great Canadian Casino View Royal
Richmond’s River Rock Casino Resort and its 70,000 square foot casino had been known as British Columbia’s largest until September 2017.
That’s when Vancouver’s Parq opened a 72,000 square foot casino, becoming the province’s largest. Parq took over the gaming license of the former Edgewater Casino, which has now closed down. In addition to two hotels, entertainment and various dining amenities, Parq is home to 600 slot machines, 75 table games, a poker room, and 11 exclusive private gaming salons.
British Columbia is also home to dozens of Bingo Halls, Community Gaming Centres, and Teletheatres offering various gambling services.
Patrons must be 19 years of age or older to gamble at a casino in British Columbia.
British Columbia Lotteries
Lottery games in the province are conducted by the BCLC. Players must be 19 years of age or older to purchase lottery tickets in the province.
The Canadian Criminal Code was amended in 1969 to authorize provinces to operate lotteries. In 1974, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia formed a partnership to conduct lotteries in Western Canada. Sales of the first tickets began British Columbia in August of that year.
Current BCLC offerings include:
- LOTTO MAX & Extra
- Lotto 6/49 & Extra
- BC/49 & Extra
- DAILY GRAND & Extra
- Scratch & Win
- Poker Lotto
- Keno & Keno Bonus
- Pacific Hold’Em Poker
- BC 50/50
- Pull Tabs
The BCLC also sanctions a form of sports betting available through lottery retailers. This is essentially parlay betting. The BCLC’s Sports Action is played by selecting the outcome of two to six sporting events based on a list of events and odds.
Sports Action offers betting on professional sports including Football, Baseball, Basketball, Soccer, and Golf. Point Spread, Over/Under and Props bets are also available.
Sport betting is also sanctioned online through BCLC’s PlayNow.com website. The site offers Live Betting, Pools, and Single-event Betting on a variety of sporting events, including NFL, NHL, NBA, NCAA, MLB, and CFL games. In fact, PlayNow.com Sports is now Canada’s largest legal online sportsbook.
There is only one online casino regulated by the province. It is the BCLC’s internet gambling site PlayNow.com. The site feature casino-style electronic table games, slots, video poker, keno, bingo and BCLC lottery ticket sales online. The site also offers peer-to-peer online poker games and hosts a legal online sportsbook.
In fact, PlayNow.com is one of the most comprehensive online gambling sites available online.
The site launched in 2004 with full fledged online casino gaming added in 2010. At the time, it became the first provincially operated casino website in North America.
In 2011 peer-to-peer poker games were added in collaboration with Loto-Quebec. In 2012, Manitoba Lotteries partnered with BCLC to provide an online gambling website in Manitoba. That site launched in 2013.
Offshore online gambling operators
There are a number of offshore online casino and online poker operations that accept customers from inside the province of British Columbia. It is against Canadian law for any entity other than the one outside a province or its approved partners to run a gambling establishment on Canadian soil. However, there is no law against Canadians gambling.
Therefore, online casino and online poker operations situated outside of Canada operate in what amounts to a legal gray area. Canadians gamble on the sites with impunity, knowing no Canadian has ever been charged with a crime for gambling on an offshore online casino.
Like most jurisdictions, Canadians were blindsided by the rise of internet gambling. Now, both the government and law enforcement community appear to have no intentions of going after the fledgling industry outside of its borders.