iGaming in Canada: BC Gambling Laws in 2020

Legal Betting FAQ: British Columbia gambling online & on land in 2020.

Legal Betting FAQ: British Columbia Gambling Online & On Land in 2020British Columbia is known for a lot of things, but none so much as the beauty of its diverse landscape. An abundance of national parks and other natural tourist attractions include the famous ski resorts of Whistler, featuring the iconic Inukshuk Statue atop Whistler Mountain (right). It is one of many such statues, derived from Inuit culture, built atop the world’s highest mountain peaks, often sought out by adventurers for their unique photo opportunities.

Beyond tourism, much of B.C.’s economic structure is built upon construction, manufacturing and a copiousness amount of natural resources. These features have contributed to a strong economy in the province, which translates to a substantial degree of pastime expenditures among the locals; many of which are keen on the entertainment value of the multitude of gambling activities regulated within the province.

Residents of British Columbia are privy to the widest array of legal gambling opportunities in the country. We’ll go over these and more in the follow context, determining which ones are legal, which ones are not, and which ones fall into the colloquial “grey area” of the law.

Terrestrial and Online Gambling Laws of Ontario

This next section has been written in Q&A format to help you quickly find the answers to any questions you may have regarding BC gambling laws. The following information is, to the best of my knowledge, factual and current as of March 2020.

What forms of gambling are legal in British Columbia?

 – Horse Racing (Thoroughbred and Harness racing)
 – Lottery (BCLC)
 – Sports Betting (Pro-Line)
 – Casino gambling (slots, tables, etc.)
 – Poker
 – Charity (bingo, raffles)

Who regulates gambling in British Columbia?

The grand majority of gambling activities are authorized, regulated and monitored by the British Columbia Lottery Corp (BCLC). This includes all lottery sales (number drawings, scratch offs and Pro-Line sports lotteries), and all commercial casino gambling. B.C. is home to 18 commerical and tribal casinos at present, boasting everything from slot machines and video poker, to blackjack, baccarat, roulette and much more. Some of these locations host poker rooms as well.

Bingo is also regulated by the BCLC, falling under the guidelines of charitable gaming. It is conducted at 20 different bingo halls and community gaming centres across the province. Any raffles or pull-table games hosted for charitable purposes must be approved and licensed by the BCLC.

This Crown corporation also hosts its very own online gambling portal, known as PlayNow. Residents of British Columbia, age 19 and above, can sign up an account on the website and enjoy the same gaming activities as they do on land – lotteries, casino games, poker, bingo, sports select, etc.

The only form of gambling BCLC is not in control of is horse racing, which is regulated by Canada’s federal government. In addition, BCLC shares the responsibility of regulating tribal casinos with the First Nation tribes who operate them.

What do British Columbia online gambling laws cover?

British Columbia was the first Canadian province to officially authorize online gambling. BCLC launched PlayNow as an online lottery website in 2004. It was expanded to offer online casino games in 2010, online poker in 2011, and online bingo games soon after that. Today, it is the most diverse provincially-run online gambling site in Canada.

The online gambling laws of BC only cover this website, and the legality of its use among adult-aged residents. International online gambling sites are not mentioned.

Is it legal to gamble at offshore gambling sites?

Yes. B.C. residents are not legally bound to do their online gambling at the locally-run Playnow website. While that is a safe, secure and thoroughly populated gaming operation, British Columbians can access international online gambling sites just as easily, and without threat of legal recourse, thanks to the ambiguity of federal law.

The Criminal Code of Canada determines that all forms of gambling are illegal, unless authorized by the province in which they are physically present. International gambling sites that have no physical presence in Canada are not bound by Canada’s laws. So long as the operator has no office or servers locate don Canadian soil, they are not breaking any laws by accepting Canadian players. Likewise, residents of British Columbia are breaking no laws by accessing or gambling on those websites.

It is worth noting that this is one of those “gray areas” of the law mentioned above. Online gambling at offshore casinos is not explicitly legal, nor is it explicitly illegal. If it’s not illegal, then it’s legal.

Is single-event sports betting legal in BC, Canada?

No. This is one area where B.C. residents are highly restricted. Sports betting may only be conducted via the province’s parlay-style (multi-pick) Pro-Line sports lottery, available in licensed retail locations all over the province, as well as the PlayNow website.

While it’s not legal to place bets on a single event or outcome within B.C., Canada, it is not illegal to do so on an internationally regulated online sports betting site. This is how the majority of sports fans in B.C. have been placing their bets for years, with no threat of criminal penalty.

Are gambling winnings taxable?

No. Canadians are not required to pay taxes on recreational gambling winnings. Even if you win a multi-million progressive jackpot, all that cash is yours to keep. The only time you might have to pay taxes on gambling winnings is if you qualify as being “in the business of gambling”, such as a professional poker player. The rules set forth by the Canada Revenue Agency regarding this matter are incredibly vague, and they willingly admit it (learn more here).

Is it safe to gamble at offshore online gambling sites?

If you reside in British Columbia, gambling online is safest at the Crown Corporation’s own PlayNow website. Here, you will have a local agency to turn to in case of any discrepancy, you’ll encounter the GameSense responsibility program, and have the option to enlist in voluntary self-exclusion. That’s not to say that international online casinos are unsafe.

In truth, some of Europe’s gaming regulators uphold the highest standards in the business. The UK is considered the strictest remote gambling jurisdiction in the world, with authorities like Malta, Gibraltar, Isle of Man and Alderney not far behind. These regulators demand compliance and are swift to penalize, if not strip the license from any operator found to be in violation. See our Gambling Safety Tips to learn more.

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