Online Gambling’s Legality in British Columbia
Like all Canadian provinces, the legality around online gambling in British Columbia depends on where it takes place. At the time of writing, BC residents are officially only allowed to gamble at the state-run site, PlayNow — an online casino launched in 2004 and owned by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation. The majority of PlayNow’s games — which include slots, live dealer experiences, table games, poker, and instant-win titles in the form of scratch cards and keno — are supplied by Scientific Gaming.
As is the case in other provinces, Canadian gamblers are legally allowed to access offshore sites regulated in foreign gambling jurisdictions, but this practice results in the profits of Canadian bets going to other nations.
The BC government regularly approves new software to be integrated into the PlayNow site, but has not yet allowed for the introduction of private third-party sites. All across Canada, provinces are considering arguments that favour the introduction of these sites, understanding that there’s a lot to gain in a financial sense from tapping into the revenue potential of online casino gambling.
With the Canadian parliament’s passing of Bill C-218 — also known as the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act — it’s clear that the tide is slowly turning on the legal status of online gambling across the country.
‘The Grey Zone’
If online gambling’s legal status in Canada seems a little unclear, you’re not alone. In fact, most of the online casino activities taking place in Canada occur in what’s known as the grey zone — so-called to represent the grey area in Canada’s gambling laws that forbids private operators from offering services in the country, while still allowing Canadian gamblers to access offshore casinos licensed in other jurisdictions.
This flexible approach to legislation has motivated provincial governments to lobby for industry change, arguing for opportunities to increase revenues by opening up online casino gambling to the kinds of offshore sites already in use throughout the country. There is nothing illegal or unsafe about making use of licensed offshore casinos, but critics of the state of play believe more stands to be won by regulating the industry from inside Canada’s borders.