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British Columbia Online Casinos

British Columbia Online CasinosBritish Columbia, or BC, is the westernmost province of Canada. Along with the American states of Washington and Oregon, it is part of the broad region known as the Pacific Northwest, and includes the city of Vancouver, the largest metropolitan area in Western Canada. It is an area known for its lush landscapes and vast natural resources, with an economy based largely on related industries like mining and logging.

British Columbia has also been one of the leaders in the Canadian online gambling industry. In 2004, the province became the first to launch a regulated and fully legal Internet gaming site in the country, one that now offers a full range of games to players in BC. The site has become a model for the rest of the nation, and has even been utilized by at least one other province because of its long track record as a trusted source for web-based casino games.

Lottery Triggered Long Period of Expansion

As is the case throughout much of Canada, the story of British Columbia’s modern gaming industry begins in 1969. That’s when the federal government amended the Criminal Code in order to allow the creation of lotteries at both the federal and provincial level. Within a few years, that was amended to give only the provinces themselves that power, and by 1974, BC had joined in a partnership with Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan to create the Western Canada Lottery Foundation.

That arrangement lasted for about a decade before the province decided that they should create their own entity to handle local lottery drawings. That group, founded in 1985, is known to this day as the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) – and it is now the single firm tasked with providing oversight and operating virtually all gambling activity in the province.

A large portion of that work is still focused on lottery games, with BC participating in a number of national lotteries like Lotto Max and Lotto 6/49 as well as offering many local games, like Lotto BC and BC/49. Keno and online lottery games have also been added to the mix as time as gone on.

The BCLC is also tasked with the management of casinos throughout the province. Casino gaming started to become a hot-button political issue in British Columbia in 1997, when two issues intersected: the fact that the government could not balance its budget despite election promises, and a growing concern over the fact that the BCLC was bringing in less revenue than any other provincial gaming group in the country.

When the idea of casino gambling was put forward as a solution to both of these issues, there was tremendous political backlash, and the arguments over whether casinos were ultimately a positive move for BC still exist today. Regardless, the promise of new revenues won out, and the first casino – a riverboat operation known as the Royal City Star, which is no longer in service – was opened in 1999. By that point, BCLC had been given jurisdiction over both slot machines and table games, making it the responsible party for all resort gaming as well as all lottery offerings in the province.

Today, there are a total of 17 casinos located throughout the province, along with a variety of other gambling halls: commercial bingo facilities and “Chances,” a slots and bingo parlor chain. In total, BCLC oversees 36 locations, in what most observers now consider to be a fully mature and saturated market. The largest and best known of these casinos is the River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond, featuring 70,000 square feet of gaming space and a large hotel.

Horse racing is also still offered in British Columbia, through a total of five tracks that are currently in operation. Four tracks offer thoroughbred racing, while Fraser Downs Racetrack in Surrey features Standardbreds. Some of these venues, including Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver, also offer slots and other electronic games, turning them into the “racinos” that have become so popular throughout North America.

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Early Adopter of Online Regulation

In 2004, PlayNow.com was launched under the auspices of the BCLC, offering the purchase of a variety of lottery products from the website. That would be the extent of the site for six years, until 2010, when PlayNow was allowed to begin offering casino games as well. This made the site the first one to be licensed in either Canada or the United States to offer online casino and poker games to its residents.

The site has largely been viewed as a success, and because of that, the BCLC has partnered with other provinces in order to expand their reach and provide Internet gambling solutions in other parts of the country. In 2011, Loto-Quebec partnered with PlayNow in order to create the first interprovincial poker network in Canada – the first time two jurisdictions had made an agreement to share player pools (something that has since been done in the United States between Nevada and Delaware, and which several European nations have considered). In 2012, Manitoba Lotteries turned to the BCLC and PlayNow.com as the basis for their own online casino, with a new version of the site now being offered exclusively to players in Manitoba.

Today, PlayNow offers not only lottery and casino games, but also poker, bingo, and sports betting action from the convenience of your computer or mobile device. Games are offered from big names in the industry such as IGT, and many titles are also available on mobile devices. There are also promotions that offer money to new players, though they don’t tend to offer the kinds of large enticing matches that you’ll find at many overseas sites.

Speaking of those foreign operators, many of them still offer their games in British Columbia, even with the presence of a locally-regulated option. While it seems pretty clear that it is illegal for those companies to do so, there are no laws stopping Canadians from playing on these websites, making them an option that should be considered by players alongside PlayNow.com.

Which choice is right for you? That will likely depend on what you’re looking for when you gamble on the Internet. If you want to choose the option with the best consumer protections available, or you want to ensure that anything you spend will benefit government programs right here in BC, then you’ll want to still with the offerings at PlayNow.com. However, if you’re looking for the biggest bonuses or find that the game selection offered by the BCLC isn’t exactly to your tastes, then it may be worth giving some of the trusted, reputable foreign brands a try.

Expansion Possible, But Public Opinion Shaky

In recent years, what seemed to be an endless wave of casino expansion in British Columbia began to slow down. A new resort in South Surrey was rejected, sending a signal there were plenty of people in the province who felt that enough was enough – especially when many had opposed allowing casinos to exist here in the first place. Meanwhile, a Vancouver resort was approved, but only after a long fight and a hard cap on the number of games that could be hosted at the proposed site, which will be next to BC Place Stadium.

But future expansion plans are still possible. Based on what they say is market analysis, the BCLC has said that they would be interested in launching one or two new Lower Mainland casinos. The corporation has been approaching both municipal and First Nations leaders about the prospect of building in various areas, though there has been criticism directed towards the BCLC for their inability to share the analysis that they say led them down this path.

Decisions like these, along with questions about former executives and a relatively low support among residents for legalized gambling (59%, according to one recent report) have left the BCLC looking for ways to improve their reputation among the general public. Efforts have included campaigns highlighting where gaming revenues go, such as the “Play It Forward” message that was part of the corporation’s 30th anniversary celebration.

How much trouble could this public concern over the gaming industry actually cause? In this case, we’re not expecting the backlash to actually cause a rollback in the kinds of offerings we see in BC. Instead, worsening public opinion will simply make it harder for officials to justify further expansions, and may also pose a problem if the Lottery Corp. hopes to continue seeing revenues increase in coming years.

But for those who enjoy these games, there shouldn’t be any changes in store. For better or for worse, gambling revenues have become an important contributor to British Columbia’s budget, and even the most stringent opponents of gambling in BC’s political sphere admit that while they might want to reexamine how casinos are operated and opposed further expansion, it is far too late to put the genie back in the bottle now.

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