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Gambling Regulation and Licensing in British Columbia (Canada) 2019

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Important information: this article was written for information purpose only. It’s not advertising and shall never be considered a legal consultation. In order to get more detailed information, we kindly recommend you to contact local authorities and regulating bodies of your country.

British Columbia (BC) is the south-western part of Canada located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Astonishing nature and the rich history of this place will keep amused and entertained both the local people and the most experienced travelers. Furthermore, this place has one great advantage. In fact, one is able to participate in various games of fortune and gambling as in traditional as well as in online casinos.

As usually, our guide will help you to understand all the pitfalls of gambling in this province. You will be able to choose one of the best websites to spend your time with the highest level of comfort.

Gambling in the province at a glance

  • Existing casinos: there are as traditional casinos (the majority of them are located right next to Vancouver), as well as online ones (PlayNow is the official website of the province; at the same time, one is able to use a huge variety of foreign websites as well)
  • Key laws in the field of gambling: Gaming Control Act
  • The minimum required age of the players: 19

Help and support services for players:

  • Contact information of the regulating authority: one shall use it in order to get additional information as well as to file a complaint against a casino.
  • British Columbia Problem Gambling Information and Referral Service 1-888-795-611 (call it if you feel that gambling became a problem or even an addiction in your life).
  • Voluntary Self-Exclusion Program (VSE) – if you want to keep yourself or another person from playing for a while or forever (mailing address: BC Lottery Corporation Manager, Casino Security and Surveillance, 74 W. Seymour Street, Kamloops, BC V2C 1E2; mail: selfexclusion@bclc.com).
  • The website to file complaints related to the violation of the consumer’s rights.
  • Resources with useful information and links, which can be used by the players in trouble: GameSense, British Columbia Responsible & Problem Gambling Program.

1. Gambling laws of the BC

British Columbia1.1. The key law in the BC is the Gaming control act (GCA) that was adopted in order to allow the province create and hold gambling venues on its territory in accordance with the Federal Laws of Canada (more detailed information about gambling regulation in Canada).

In accordance with the GCA, the following forms of legal gambling are allowed in the BC:

  • One-time gambling events carried out in order to support various social and charity projects. GPEB has to issue licenses in order to perform such events.
  • ‘Charitable gambling’ – non-commercial organizations are allowed to perform such games of fortunes on a regular basis in casinos and gambling venues. In order to make it, they have to get a grant that is valid for one year. Only the non-commercial companies from the following fields are allowed to get such grants: Arts and Culture, Sport, Environment, Public Safety, Human and Social Services, Parent Advisory Councils and District Parent Advisory Councils (these organizations are aligned with schools).
  • State gambling – the authorities of the province are allowed to create their own casinos managed by a state corporation. The British Columbia Lottery Corporation is the authority of the BC that serves as an agent in the field of gambling and games of fortune in the province.
  • Private companies and individuals are not allowed to create their own gambling venues; however, they are allowed to be beneficiaries of casinos and gambling houses by using governmental or licensed gambling venues (they can supply required equipment or services, as well as work in the casinos). In order to make it, all of them have to be registered in the GPEB.

1.2. Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act (BPCPA) – don’t forget about your rights as a consumer, and remember that every casino is nothing but a service provider, which has to observe your legal rights.

Important information: the province established a special body to protect the rights of the consumers called Consumer Protection BC. This body serves as a regulating authority in all fields, except gambling. As a result, this body is not able to process complaints about the violations in the field of gambling (this is the area of the GPEB, which we are going to discuss a bit further). At the same time, one is able to address their issues to the Consumer Protection BC in case if their rights (BPCPA) were violated. One can use a special website to file a complaint against a violator.

History of gambling in the BC at a glance

  • 1974 – the following provinces create the Western Canada Lottery Corporation (WCLC): British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.
  • 1982 – the official launch of the 6/49 lottery, which was the first nationwide lottery in Canada. WCLC launched this lottery on behalf of four different provinces.
  • 1985 – after 10 years of cooperation in the frames of WCLC, the BC decided to create its own company in order to manage lotteries within the province: British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC).
  • 1997 – first legal slot-machines were installed in the province. The very first slot machines were officially launched in the Great Canadian Casino Newton in Surrey. BCLC is delegated with all powers to manage casinos and lotteries. The province offers an opportunity to obtain a license in the field of charitable gambling.
  • 1998 – BCLC starts to control all the table games in the casinos, as well as takes control over all the games in all the casinos in the province.
  • 2004 – the creation of PlayNow.com – the first website in Canada that offers online games and the ability to purchase various lotteries.
  • 2010 – PlayNow.com becomes the first website that offers regulated online gambling games in North America.
  • 2011 – BCLC and Loto-Québec launch the peer-to-peer poker game.

2. Regulating authority

Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch of The Ministry of Finance (GPEB) is a department within the local government responsible for the regulation of the gambling field in the province. This authority was established in 2002 in order to substitute the BC Gaming Commission.

The GPEB controls the issuance of all licenses and grants as well as registers companies and individuals in order to work in the field of gambling within the province.

In addition, the GPEB controls and supervises the process of gambling all around the province. As a result, one has to file all the complaints related to the games of fortune and online casinos to the GPEB.

3. Casinos in British Columbia: the list of available offers and opportunities

A. Local operators

Traditional gambling in the BC includes a wide range of gambling venues: casinos, bingo halls and community gaming centres (slot machines, bingo games, lotteries, table games and additional services, such as cafes and restaurants), race tracks and teletheatres (betting halls, where you can watch various sports on giant TVs). The majority of gambling venues are located right next to Vancouver, e.g. Coquitlam.

Type of licenses and how to check them:

  • #1

    In the BC, the so-called ‘licenses’ can be issued only for a one-time event or a series of events (only related to various charitable and social programs and activities). There are four types of licenses: A, B, C, and D. The type of the license depends on the amount of money that the organizer wants to collect, as well as from the number of prizes and ticket prices.

  • #2

    One-year grants (can be issued only for non-commercial organizations working within the frames of charitable projects related to a specific area of the market);

  • #3

    State casinos (they don’t need licenses because their activity is governed by the law).

  • #4

    Registration is a form of license for private companies intended to allow them to cooperate with state or licensed casinos in order to provide services or equipment, as well as to work in the field of gambling.

How to check the license (permit)?

One can use a special website to check the validity of the license.

Furthermore, the list of all licensed venues is published on the official website of the GPEB (information about horse races is located on a separate portal).

In addition, the BC offers a service that allows checking the current status of legal entities and individuals registered in the field of gambling (suppliers or workers of the casinos and gambling houses).

Online gambling

The BC has its own online casino called ‘PlayNow’. This casino is managed by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation and is positioned by the local authorities as to the unique legal website for gambling activities in the province.

Types of gambling permitted in the gambling venues of the province (source GPEB Annual report 2017/2018).

At the same time, one is able to use a huge variety of other websites operated by foreign companies. We are going to talk about them below.

B. Licensed online casinos registered in different jurisdictions

While in BC, one is able to use a wide range of gambling websites operated by licensees from foreign countries.

Important information: such operators and website are able to offer your more games and gambling types because they are not limited to the requirements and restrictions mentioned above. For example, one can easily find multiplayer games in foreign online casinos. In addition, you are free to play with people from all around the world, while getting more prizes because you are not limited to the frames of the province. This is simple logic: the more players the website has, the higher is the number of bets and prizes. One can easily check it by going to one of the most popular gambling websites.

Are such casinos legal in terms of the laws of Canada and British Columbia? They are in the “gray zone” of Canadian regulation – the laws do not stipulate that their activities are prohibited or allowed.

Over the years, the provincial authorities (like the federal authorities) have not taken any measures to ban private online operators and restrict access to their sites. Therefore, at the moment, these sites are not prohibited. In addition, there are illustrative practical examples, which speak in favor of the legality of foreign online operators.

In any case, participation in online gambling is not an offense on the part of the player.

Licenses: foreign operators must be licensed by a foreign jurisdiction in which gambling is legal. Most often these are licenses of smaller European states, for example Malta or the Isle of Man. A license obtained in the United Kingdom is recognized as authoritative one.

Can you trust such operators? Yes, you can, since many countries place very high demands on their license applicants. But of course, you cannot trust everyone. As with any industry, there are great deals from reliable companies; but there are also those that should be avoided. Therefore, before you make a choice and start the game, always verify the casino and its operator. Recommendations on how to verify the casino and how to choose the foreign online casino can be found below.

C. Online casino with Kahnawake license

The legal status of both the Kahnawake license and casinos working under such licenses was never challenged by the local and federal authorities. As a result, one can participate in the activity of Kahnawake licensed venues without any issues.

Licenses: The Kahnawake has its own regulating authority called the Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KWG). The KWG is responsible for the issuance of the licenses. At the same time, the KWG has to process all the complaints and disputes between the players and the casinos.

The detailed list of the licenses issued by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KWG) with the names of the companies and their websites can be found in a special section of their website.

More detailed information about the Kahnawake gambling, the KWG licenses and ways to check them can be found here.

4. How to check a casino

Below one can find short instructions, which will help you to check the legal status of the casino. More detailed information about the process of casino checking as well as the main pitfalls and the most useful information can be found in our article here. Furthermore, while browsing our website, you can easily find a lot of useful information about the process of casino registration in different countries, as well as about the ways to check the validity of casinos in specific jurisdictions.

Basic recommendations:

  • #1

    Check the license.

  • #2

    Check the deposit and withdrawal systems, including the terms of payment, accounts to store your funds, supported payment providers and protective measures.

  • #3

    Check the level of protection of your private data, including the Privacy Policy of the company and its rights to process your personal information.

  • #4

    Check the beneficiary of the website and its location (registration); the information about the company has to be published on the website (usually, it’s located right next to the license number). After that, we recommend checking the legal state and the existence of the company by using special services.

  • #5

    Check the ways to file complaints and settle disputes: the best casinos will offer you an alternative (faster) way of dispute resolution in order to avoid long legal wrangling.

  • #6

    Check the certification of the software performed by special testing companies.

  • #7

    Check the level of social responsibility of the casino: the best of them won’t squeeze your last money in order to leave ‘a desert’ after their activity. The most reliable casinos are simply obliged to limit your (or someone’s) access to the game or block it (the BC has its own Voluntary Self-Exclusion Program).

In addition, all the casinos are obliged to provide support for players and participate in various social and non-commercial projects related to the key problems of gambling. You shall trust only socially responsible casinos.

All the mentioned information has to be published on the website of the casino (in the majority of cases, it can be found in the footer or in the side menu) or in their Terms and Conditions.

Important information: we also recommend checking all the information offered at the website of the operator or the casino. Spend some time to check the validity of the license by using special registries offered by the license issuing jurisdictions.

Important information: while choosing a foreign casino, always check the registration country of the operator and the location of the company because all the disputes and issues will be solved in accordance with the laws of such jurisdictions.

In the case of the dispute, one can address the KWG within Canada, while in case of litigation, you will need to find other ways.

5. Deposits and withdrawals in online casinos

The BC offers the same range of payment solutions as casinos in Canada.

Important information: If you want to make a transaction for $10,000 or more, the operators have to request detailed information about the origin of your funds in order to comply with the anti-money laundering rules.

No taxation: your revenues and profits are non-taxable (except professional gamblers).

6. Conclusion

Online gambling is more than affordable and accessible in BC, so you will never lose your opportunity to play games of fortune. At the same time, you need to remember that the overall quality of the game depends on the reliability of the casino. Be wise and play responsibly.

James Taylor

In case if you need some help to choose the best casino, you can use the rating of the most reliable casinos with a wide range of astonishing features and the highest levels of security and protection.

Short facts about the province

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