In Canada, the federal Criminal Code determines the legality of different gaming activities. The federal government agreed that the provinces should be allowed to be the sole providers of gambling offerings. The provinces themselves are now responsible for the operation, licensing, and regulation of each activity they decide to offer.
In British Columbia, all types of legal gambling are fully regulated, including casino games, slots, horse racing, and lotteries.
The sector is overseen by the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch (GPEB), which ensures that players are properly protected and the gambling offerings are upstanding.
The GPEB also deals with responsible gambling in the province, and its remit is covered under the federal Criminal Code of Canada and the British Columbia Gaming Control Act.
You need to be at least 19 years old to gamble at a casino, horse track, gaming centers, or licensed gambling event as well as to partake in bingo or lottery games in British Columbia.
Revenue generated for the provincial government through gambling is used to fund various social programs, including education, healthcare, and helping stimulate growth in local economies.
Casinos have existed in British Columbia since 1987. Slot machines were first introduced in 1997 and are managed and overseen by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC).
Local governments in the province have the capability of deciding on the types of gambling offered in their jurisdiction as well as their extent.
As per the Gaming Control Act, at any time, only 22 different casinos are allowed to be in operation in British Columbia. In addition to the all-encompassing regions, there are also Community Gaming Centers operated by the BCLC. These centers provide bingo and slots but do not offer table games. Around 10% of the net income generated by gaming facilities in the province goes towards local governments.
The BCLC offers online gambling in British Columbia through a platform called PlayNow, which launched in the summer of 2010.
PlayNow allows BC residents to partake in casino, poker, and lottery games. The casino games on offer include craps, baccarat, roulette, blackjack, and slots.
British Columbia was the first province in all of North America to offer a form of an online gambling platform operated by a government. The site had a bumpy start with security issues surfacing just days after launch, resulting in the platform being shut down for a few weeks while these problems were resolved.
The BCLC announced in 2012 that Manitoba lotteries would be catered for through their online platform. This was extended to the website launched in the province of Manitoba at the start of 2013 for sports betting, casino games, and online poker.
The state-run online gambling platform PlayNow offers very limited sports betting options – only parlay bets are allowed.
In 2012, a partnership was struck between well-known Irish bookmaker Paddy Power and the BCLC. The deal saw Paddy Power compile the odds for the platform’s in-play and futures betting markets.
PlayNow has offered sports pools since 2016, with the BCLC working alongside OpenBet, an experienced software provider in the sports wagering sector.
In summer 2018, the BCLC signed a contract with the Scientific Games Corporation, an experienced betting solution outfit set to completely overhaul the online platform’s sports betting offering.
While all other forms of gambling are regulated on a provincial level, horse racing is still governed by a federal agency – the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency. This is due to section 204 of the Criminal Code, which states that pari-mutuel gambling is not considered to be a form of illegal betting.
In British Columbia, simulcast and live betting on races are allowed. The racing scene in the province is overseen by the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch’s Racing division, which manages the rules of all races and ensures that the events are well-managed and that participants are properly licensed.
Currently, there are five racetracks in operation in the province:
Teletheatres are also popular in British Columbia. These are satellite centers where people can remotely watch and bet on races. Currently, there are 20 teletheatres around the province.
There is a keen interest in horse racing in the province, which is why 25% of the net revenue from slots profits in the casino at the Fraser Downs and Hastings racetracks (around $10 million each year) are used to boost the industry.
This comes at a time when the popularity of horse racing has been on a steady decline.
Since the end of 2011, the BCLC – in partnership with the Lotto-Quebec – has been offering online poker on a peer-to-peer basis.
The PlayNow online gambling platform has been part of the Canadian Poker Network since 2011 – gamblers located in British Columbia can play poker with Quebec residents through the Espacejeux online room.
In 1969, the Criminal Code of Canada was amended to allow provinces to handle their lotteries.
This change led to several provinces joining together to operate their respective lotteries under one umbrella – the Western Canada Lottery Foundation. The provinces involved were British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.
The lottery’s very first drawing was held in British Columbia in 1974. By 1985, provinces decided to move away from the Western Canada Lottery Foundation and develop their own lottery schemes, which led to the creation of the BCLC.
These days, the BCLC oversees various instant draw games and lotteries and provides an online platform where gamblers can purchase lottery tickets and participate in some forms of online sports betting. Some of the popular non-lottery games on offer include scratch and win, keno, and pull tabs. More than 4,000 retailers sell lottery tickets, which are also available online.
Charitable gambling has been legal in British Columbia for many years – nonprofits are permitted to use it for fundraising.
Each charity is granted a Class A, B, C, or D license depending on the sum of money it hopes to raise. Popular gambling forms that are allowed for fundraising purposes are wheel of fortune, bingo, raffle, and some traditional casino games.
Since 2002, there has been no need for community or charities to operate the paper bingo sector in British Columbia. However, several of these organizations continue to work within the commercial sector. Some are independent providers of bingo, whereas others operate these facilities solely for charities, which can benefit from the generated revenue. There are currently 25 bingo halls operating across the province.
British Columbia has embraced the casino industry with open arms, allowing it to flourish in recent years.
The province’s state-run online gambling platform is a popular choice for those looking to play poker, casino games, and slots. It continues to partner with successful companies in its expansion of sports betting – a gambling form that is currently very limited.