British Columbia already enjoyed the largest, most varied, and robust online provincial lottery sports betting product in Canada. But it’s even bigger and bolder now that the federal government has lifted the country-wide ban on single-game betting. A bill that did that became law in June 2021 and the BC Lottery Corporation’s PlayNow.com online lottery, sports, and casino site started taking more than just parlay-style sports bets almost immediately after.
That means BC is in the midst of a major new phase in its sports betting evolution. The BCLC has said single-game wagering will start with PlayNow.com, creating a host of new legal sports-betting opportunities that its players could only access previously via grey-market websites. Then, it will eventually evolve into licensed sportsbooks at land-based casinos and community gaming centres in key markets, and possibly even to enhanced sports-betting offerings at BC bars and pubs.
All told, the BCLC estimates legal single-game wagering will drive $125-$175 million in revenue throughout the province. Get ahead of this new way to bet on sports in BC by following our breakdown of everything you need to know about online sports betting in the province, including how sports betting used to work in BC, how it works now, what has changed, and how you can get in on all the action.
BC sports betting timeline and recent updates
- 2021: The Canadian government passed a law making single-game wagering legal. PlayNow.com added single-game wagering, race and fight bets will be available for the first time, and PlayNow.com now includes a fully functional online sportsbook.
- 2020: Paddy Power Betfair, which is now Flutter Entertainment and the owner of the FanDuel and FOXBet sportsbook brands in the US, ran sports betting for PlayNow and the BCLC from launch. However, Las Vegas based Scientific Games Corporation took over the contract in May 2020 and immediately signed an extension to run sports betting for PlayNow and the BCLC through 2024. Scientific Games currently offers a full suite of sports and novelty parlay bets through PlayNow, including pre-match and in-play lines.
- 2012: Sports Action replaced by PlayNow Sports online in 2012. PlayNow Sports is a much broader offering and its parlays can be anywhere from from two to 20 legs.
- 2004: Sports Action went online in 2004
- 1991: the BCLC launched the Sports Action sports betting lottery product at lottery retailers, offering the only form of sports betting that’s currently legal in Canada: parlay betting. Sports Action parlays can be from two to six legs. All legs within a parlay must win for the parlay to win.
How sports betting used to work in BC
The BCLC used to offer two options when it came to betting on sports: Sports Action and PlayNow Sports. Both were only open to players 19 or older and available online. Sports Action is also available at BCLC retailers, BCLC branded lottery kiosks, and bars and pubs throughout BC.
The PlayNow.com online sportsbook offered a variety of bet types on a large number of sports, leagues, and tournaments from around the globe, including various parlay options, single bets comprising a parlay embedded within the bet, futures, and outrights. PlayNow also offers Bet-Back Bonuses and other promotions, immediate settlement and payment on winning bets, and live or in-play betting at constantly adjusted odds. It was always the closest thing to a fully functional online sportsbook available in Canada.
Sports Action offers fixed odds while PlayNow Sports odds can change ahead of an event. The odds for both are locked in at the time you place a bet. You can only bet on a maximum of 240 events per week with Sports Action while you are not restricted to any maximum number of bets with PlayNow Sports.
Sports Action and PlayNow Sports Betting Options
Sports Action offers six betting options:
- Oddset 3-Outcome: Pick the outcome of two to six games: Visitor Win, Home Win, or Tie. Ties include ties at the end of regulation in Hockey and Soccer, Football games decided by 3 points or less, Baseball games decided by one run, Basketball games decided by 5 points or less, and Golf match-ups decided by one stroke or less.
- Oddset 2-Outcome: Pick the outcome of two to six games: Visitor Win or Home Win.
- Point Spread: Pick the outcome of two to 12 games with a point spread factored in.
- Over/Under: Pick the Over or Under on two to 10 games.
- Props: Pick the Over or Under or answer Yes or No to a prop question for two to six props.
- Toto (Pools): Pick the outcome of all games in any Sports Action Toto Menu (13 games): Visitor Win, Home Win, or Tie. Oddset 3-Outcome tie rules apply. Win a share of the prize pool with 11, 12, or 13 games correct.
PlayNow Sports includes a variety of unique parlay bet-types and others that mirror what Sports Action offers.
When is single-game betting coming to BC?
It’s here already. The Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, which legalized single-game wagering across Canada, passed on June 22, 2021 and received Royal Assent, becoming law, on June 30, 2021. Essentially, this law brings legal sports betting to BC and any other Canadian province or territory that wants it. It has eliminated the need to bet parlays when betting sports in BC. Scientific Games has already made single-game odds and betting lines available on PlayNow.com. You should see a difference in the odds offered, and your ability to win, right away.
Which retail and online sportsbooks are coming to BC?
The BCLC has said it will first implement single-game wagering on PlayNow.com. Long term, it also plans to bring single-game wagering to land-based casinos and community gaming centres.
BC has 34 casinos and community gaming centres across the province, all of which could potentially launch a sportsbook. Here’s the list of BC casinos and community gaming centres:
- Starlight Casino – New Westminster, BC
- Grand Villa Casino – Burnaby, BC
- Parq Vancouver – Vancouver, BC
- River Rock Casino Resort – Richmond, BC
- Chances Playtime Campbell River – Campbell River, BC
- Casino Nanaimo – Nanaimo, BC
- Chances Cowichan – Duncan, BC
- Chances RimRock – Port Alberni, BC
- Planet Bingo – Vancouver BC
- Chances Mission – Mission, BC
- Hastings Racecourse – Vancouver, BC
- Chances Courtenay – Courtenay, BC
- Chances Maple Ridge – Maple Ridge, BC
- Elements Casino Surrey – Surrey, BC
- Chances Terrace – Terrace, BC
- Cascades Casino Penticton – Penticton, BC
- Chances Casino Kelowna – Kelowna, BC
- Treasure Cove Casino & Bingo – Prince George, BC
- Cascades Casino Kamloops – Kamloops, BC
- Chances Dawson Creek – Dawson Creek, BC
- Elements Casino Chilliwack – Chilliwack, BC
- Chances Squamish – Squamish, BC
- Chances Castlegar – Castlegar, BC
- Billy Barker Casino Hotel – Quesnel, BC
- Lake City Casino Vernon – Vernon, BC
- Chances Signal Point – Williams Lake, BC
- St. Eugene Golf Resort & Casino – Cranbrook, BC
- Chances Abbotsford – Abbotsford, BC
- Playtime Casino Kelowna – Kelowna, BC
- Cascades Casino Langley – Langley, BC
- Chances Kamloops – Kamloops, BC
- Chances Fort St. John – Fort St. John, BC
- Elements Casino Victoria – Victoria, BC
- Chances Prince Rupert – Prince Rupert, BC
- Hard Rock Casino Vancouver – Coquitlam, BC
- Chances Salmon Arm – Salmon Arm, BC
Bars, pubs, and online and mobile sportsbooks
The BCLC is also considering enhanced sports-betting offerings beyond the Sports Action sports betting lottery product at hospitality locations, including BC bars and pubs. Finally, the BCLC says it’s ready to work with industry, regulatory, and government partners to introduce licensed sportsbooks in key markets across BC. That could ultimately mean the following online and mobile sportsbook brands entering the BC market:
- TheScore Bet: A Canadian sports media company with a popular sports news app that now operates sportsbooks in New Jersey, Colorado, Indiana, and Iowa. Founder and CEO John Levy says the company wants in the Canadian sports betting market.
- Torstar: The Canadian media corporation that owns The Toronto Star and has some interests in BC media plans to launch an online casino and sportsbook betting brand in Ontario. Could BC be next?
- DraftKings Sportsbook: Daily Fantasy Sports company now operates sportsbooks in 12 states across the US and says Canada may be next.
- FanDuel Sportsbook and FOXBet: Flutter Entertainment brands from the sports betting operator that used to run PlayNow.com.
- PointsBet Sportsbook: Aussie-based US sports betting operator now in New Jersey, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Colorado, and Michigan, could want in BC.
- BetMGM Sportsbook: BetMGM is all over the US sports betting states now and may want in BC.
- William Hill: The largest sportsbook operator in the US may be eying the Canadian market as well.
What betting markets to expect in BC
Sports currently available on PlayNow.com include:
- Australian Rules Football
- MLB odds
- NBA Basketball odds
- Cricket odds
- NFL odds
- CFL odds
- PGA golf odds
- NHL odds
- Novelty & Specials (Oscars)
- Power Picks (Betting Combinations)
- Rugby League odds
- Rugby Sevens odds
- Soccer odds
- Table Tennis odds
- Tennis odds
Featured sports betting markets on PlayNow.com in include:
- PGA Championship odds, Masters odds, US Open odds
- NHL Games, Playoff Series, and Stanley Cup odds
- NBA Games, Playoff Series, and NBA Finals odds
- MLB Games, Wild Card, AL/NL Divisional Playoffs, World Series odds
- European/South America/Latin America Soccer Leagues including FIFA World Cup odds, Premier League odds
- MLS Soccer odds
- Power Picks (Betting Combinations)
- IIHF World Championships (Hockey)
In season, featured markets include the NFL. Most of the same should be available when single-game wagering comes to BC. Single-game wagering may also bring boxing and MMA betting with it. Plus, the bet-type options will extend beyond parlays to include individual game outrights like moneylines, point spreads, and totals. Individual props and futures will also be available. Plus, parlays should still be available at fair market prices.
Teams, players, awards you can bet on
Single-game wagering has also brought individual props and futures with it to BC. That means you will be available to bet on player awards in various leagues without having to make your bet a part of a parlay. This may include:
- NBA MVP odds
- NFL MVP odds
- Hart Trophy odds (NHL)
- Art Ross & Rocket Richard Trophy odds (NHL)
- AL and NL MVP odds
- AL and NL Cy Young odds
- Heisman Trophy (College Football)
Partnerships with pro teams
The BCLC are longtime partners and presenting sponsors of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. Recently, this has included sponsorship of the Fan Hero Awards, presented by BCLC, recognizing and celebrating contributions made by everyday heroes in various BC communities. The BCLC is also a longtime sponsor of the CFL’s BC Lions.
BC sports betting laws
You have to register for an account with PlayNow.com before you can place any kinds of bets on sports. Plus, you must be 19 years of age or older and in the province when you place your bets. The BCLC has safeguards, an authentication process and various security measures in place to ensure all that is the case. A credit bureau verifies all account info including age and residency. PlayNow products can only be purchased while you are physically located in British Columbia and it is a violation of the PlayNow.com Player Agreement to try to do so from outside of the province.
Canadian law dictates that PlayNow.com is now able to offer single-event betting. PlayNow lists odds in Decimal, American, and Fractional formats from sportsbook operator Scientific Games. The old parlay-only betting format means the odds were quite different from traditional sportsbooks, but they are quite similar now. In fact, PlayNow.com lines are now closer to the lines found at Las Vegas sportsbooks and online and mobile sportsbooks across the US. However, local betting patterns can force differences in a lot of the lines by the time a game starts.
You don’t have to pay taxes on winning bets in Canada as long as sports gambling isn’t your sole source of income. If you don’t get paid on a winning bet or have any issue at all, contact PlayNow through Live Chat online, telephone 24/7 at 1-877-706-6789, or through an email contact form on the website.
Cross-border betting in Washington, offshore sportsbooks
The Washington State Legislature voted to legalize sports betting in 2020, but only at retail locations inside tribal casinos. The state’s first retail sportsbook opened at a Tulalip tribal casino alongside Interstate 5 north of Everett in April 2021, giving BC residents a cross-border single-game wagering option while they waited for the federal government to legalize single-game wagering here.
The Washington State Gambling Commission entered into an arrangement with the Tulalip Tribes, and is looking to do the same for other tribal casinos across Washington, allowing the tribes to offer betting on major sports leagues, international events, and college athletics, except for games involving in-state schools. There is no plan to allow online or mobile sports betting or anything else outside of authorized tribal casinos.
Why you should avoid unregulated sportsbooks
The BCLC knows BC residents have been betting on sports with grey-market offshore sportsbooks offering single-game wagering options over the internet for years. In its address to the House of Commons showing support for the effort to legalize single-game wagering here, the BCLC lamented the fact these unregulated off-shore websites operate without providing revenue, jobs, or any support to BC. They claimed these sites are operating illegally in Canada, outside of any regulatory framework, and that puts players at risk with little to no player health safeguards.
The BCLC estimates it has lost as much as $250 million in revenue over the past five years to these grey-market websites because of its inability to offer single-game wagering and betting on MMA and Boxing events. The organization supported the legalization of single-game wagering because it believed that will create a level playing field, giving it the chance to offer single-game sports betting in a way that benefits BC and its players, in a regulated environment with player health, integrity, and security safeguards in place. That’s now happening with single-game wagering now available on PlayNow.com.
Operating without Canadian oversight or regulation means the grey-market offshore sportsbooks are free to do whatever they want with the money you deposit with them or win from them. Many employ shady banking techniques tricking Canadian banks into dealing with them and making it difficult for you to get your money from them. Some even employ predatory banking practices, delaying withdrawals or offering bonuses if you cancel withdrawals, attempting to hold on to your winnings just long enough for you to lose those winnings back to them. Just like several offshore online poker operators have in the past, grey-market offshore sportsbooks may one-day disappear and take your money with them and you’ll have nowhere to turn.
The best way to avoid these issues is to stick to PlayNow.com. Only PlayNow.com or sportsbooks licensed by the province can offer the kind of consumer protection a government corporation like the BCLC can and will continue to, guaranteeing your money and personal information are always safe.