British Columbia already enjoys the largest, most varied, and robust online provincial lottery sports betting product in Canada. It’s about to get even bigger and bolder. The federal government is ready to lift the country-wide ban on single-game betting. A bill that will do exactly that passed a third reading in the House of Commons in April 2021.
It’s now in the hands of the Senate, which means the BC Lottery Corporation’s PlayNow online lottery, sports, and casino site could start taking more than just parlay-style sports bets by the end of the year.
That means BC is about to hit a major new phase in its sports betting evolution. In fact, the BCLC says single-game betting will start with PlayNow, creating a host of new legal sports-betting opportunities that its players are currently accessing via grey-market websites. Then, it will evolve into licensed sportsbooks at land-based casinos and community gaming centres in key markets and perhaps even to enhanced sports-betting offerings at BC bars and pubs as well.
Add it up and the BCLC estimates legal single-game betting will drive $125-$175 million in revenue throughout the province. Get ahead of the new way to bet on sports on BC by following our breakdown of everything you need to know about online sports betting in BC, including how sports betting works in BC right now, what’s about to change, and how you can get in on the action.
BC sports betting timeline and recent updates
- 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.
- 2004: Sports Action went online in 2004
- 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.
- 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.
The BCLC is on the record supporting efforts to legalize single-game betting across Canada and Scientific Games appears ready to flip a switch to allow single-game wagering through PlayNow when those efforts ultimately succeed.
How sports betting works in BC right now
The BCLC currently offers two options when it comes to betting on sports: Sports Action and PlayNow Sports. Both are 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 online sportsbook offers a variety of bet types on a large number of sports, leagues, and tournaments from around the globe, including various parlay options, single bets comprised of 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’s 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. Sports Action offers wagering on a maximum of 240 events per week while PlayNow Sports is not restricted to a maximum number of events.
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?
The Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, which will legalize single-game wagering across Canada, passed its third reading in the House of Commons on April 22, 2021. That means it is headed to the Senate, where it will be up for debate and could pass by the end of the year, bringing legal single-game sports wagering to BC and any other Canadian province or territory that wants it.
This will eliminate the need to bet parlays when betting sports in BC. Scientific Games should make single-game odds and betting lines available immediately on PlayNow.com. You should see a difference in the odds offered and your ability to win.
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 sportsbooks. 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 Courtenay – Courtenay, BC
- Chances Maple Ridge – Maple Ridge, BC
- Chances RimRock – Port Alberni, BC
- Planet Bingo – Vancouver BC
- Chances Mission – Mission, BC
- Hastings Racecourse – Vancouver, 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
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: Aussie-based US sports betting operator now in New Jersey, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Colorado, and Michigan, could want in BC.
- BetMGM: 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
- PGA golf odds
- NHL odds
- Novelty & Specials (Oscars)
- Power Picks (Betting Combinations)
- Rugby League
- Rugby Union
- Soccer odds
- Table Tennis
- Tennis odds
Featured sports betting markets on PlayNow.com in May 2021 included:
- 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 Premier League odds
- Euro 2020 (Soccer)
- MLS Soccer
- 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 will bring 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
- NFL MVP
- Hart Trophy (NHL)
- AL and NL MVP
- AL and NL Cy Young
- 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 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 is unable to offer single-event betting, but that will change when Canada lifts its current ban on the activity. A Bill seeking to do so has already passed its third and final reading in the House of Commons and is expected to do the same in the Senate before the end of 2021.
PlayNow lists odds Decimal, American, and Fractional formats from sportsbook operator Scientific Games. The current parlay-only betting format means these odds are quite different from traditional sportsbooks. Single-game wagering should change that, making the odds on most bets at PlayNow closer to the lines found at Las Vegas sportsbooks and online and mobile sportsbooks across the US. However, local betting patterns will 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 wait 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 supports the legalization of single-game wagering because it believes 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.
Operating without Canadian oversight or regulation means 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 and patiently wait for single-game wagering to launch there. PlayNow offers the kind of consumer protection only a government corporation like the BCLC can and will continue to do so, guaranteeing your money and personal information are always safe.