British Columbia, a province of Canada, wants to keep online gambling all to itself. The British Columbia Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch (GPEB) has issued a warning to all unapproved online gambling sites operating within its territory to stay out. Letters were sent to the CEOs of nineteen gambling sites that accept wagers from BC residents and were warned that their activities are “likely to be contrary to both the Criminal Code of Canada and the Gaming Control Act.” The letters stated that only the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) “may conduct, manage or operate a lottery scheme in BC.” No other online gambling sites are allowed unless approved by the BCLC.
That interpretation of the Criminal Code by the BCLC is not necessarily shared by other legal entities. Some argue that as long as offshore or international operators do not maintain a physical presence within Canada, they are within their rights to cater to Canadian citizens.
The Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch further stated in the letters that they have shared its list of unauthorized online gambling operators with other provinces. British Columbia will also hold talks with European gaming regulators to learn more about protectionist methods to lock out unapproved operators.
PlayNow.com is the BCLC’s online gambling site and was their fastest growing segment in the latest fiscal report. Earnings for the site were reported at US $102.7 million for fiscal 2015-2016. If offshore gambling operators were to be kept out of BC, that revenue figure would be considerably more. But since the BCLC was tasked by the Liberal government with the responsibility of enforcing anti-money-laundering controls at its casino operations earlier this year, it will need considerably more revenue to offset their portion of the budget. The enforcement budget was set at $4.3 million, of which 70 percent will be BCLC’s responsibility.
British Columbia isn’t the first province that has tried to stop international online gambling sites from operating within their territory. Quebec and Ontario have tried the same thing two years ago, by forcing internet service providers to IP-block domains of offshore operators. Canada’s federal communications regulator has called into question the legality of IP-blocking and so far, has not considered it an enforcement priority.
The glaring problem with combatting offshore operators is the blatant conflict of interest for Canada’s provincial gambling monopolies. By serving a dual role as both regulator and gambling operator invites a supposed impropriety into the equation. Kind of like having the Mafia supervise its own casino.