British Columbia Casinos and Gambling
British Columbia (BC) is Canada’s westernmost province and lies between the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains. Stretching along the Pacific coast from the US in the south to the Yukon Territory in the north, BC comprises 944,735 km2 (364,764 sq mi) of land and lakes and is home to over 4.8 million people, more than 40 casinos, and 2 racetracks. Visitors must be 19 years of age or older to gamble online or on-land in BC.
Aside from four First Nation (tribal) casinos, the rest are private/public partnerships to one degree or another between companies like Great Canadian Gaming and Gateway Casino & Entertainment, and the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC). The BCLC is a Crown Corporation, which means it is structured like an independent company but is wholly owned by the provincial government.
Lottery games are a favorite diversion for British Columbians with nearly 4,000 retail lottery locations and over $3 billion annually in casino and lottery ticket revenues. The government collects a little over 40% of that and redistributes the proceeds to non-profit community organizations, local governments that host casinos, local economic development projects, and other worthy causes.
Private lottery retailers offer national draw games like Lotto Max and BC-specific games like BC49, scratch tickets, and Keno. Direct lottery sales generate over CDN$1.2 billion in revenue annually.
The horse racing industry, like everywhere else, is suffering in BC with three of five tracks dark. About 7%, or nearly $10m of the BCLC profits go toward buoying the two remaining tracks – Elements Casino (Fraser Downs) in Surrey and Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver. Beyond supplementing purses, which attract top trainers, riders, and horses, 5,000 jobs are supported and 125 live race dates a year are possible with help from the subsidies.
The Casinos of British Columbia
The BCLC is responsible for the casinos, lottery, and eGaming in BC. The government’s internet gambling portal is called PlayNow.com and offers slots and other casino games, poker, bingo, and betting lines. Sports betting is not allowed on single sporting events in BC so they offer a form of parimutuel betting on the outcomes of at least two events. Single non-sporting events, such as the outcome of US elections are allowed.
BC residents are free to play at other online casinos, which may or may not have better odds because they aren’t taxed and don’t share revenues with communities. eGaming through the PlayNow.com platform currently generates less than CDN$2 million a year in revenue, 2,000x less than lottery and destination casinos combined. Popular offshore internet casinos certainly dwarf those numbers even as popular games by well-known providers like NetEnt can only be found at PlayNow.
BCLC operates 17 full-service casinos and 19 gaming centers without table games along with 6 bingo halls. From the Greater Vancouver Area to Fort St John in the north all of the casinos and gaming centers offer food and drink, entertainment, and gaming action. Some have hotel accommodations.
With nearly a billion sq km of land to build brick and mortar casinos on, we’ll break the province down by regions starting with the Lower Mainland which includes Vancouver and outlying areas, Fraser Valley, and a single casino in Squamish.
Cascades Casino, Langley offers over 80,000 sq ft of gaming space with 888 slots, table games, and a theater. The Coast Hotel & Convention Centre is onsite.
Elements Casino, Surrey is home to a racecourse and full-service casino which reopened in 2017 after extensive renovation. In addition to slots and table games, a poker room with 12 tables runs 7 days a week upstairs and around the clock on weekends at the facility formerly known as Fraser Downs.
Grand Villa Casino in Burnaby offers over 100,000 sq ft of gaming space, 1,000 slot machines, and 50 table games along with seven bars, restaurants, and a show lounge. A hotel with 200 guest rooms and suites allows travelers and revelers a chance to rest overnight before driving 20 minutes back to Vancouver or other points.
Hard Rock Casino Vancouver in Coquitlam is a popular place for the younger crowd with three live performance venues, poker, racebook, slots, tables, and electronic table games.
Hastings Racecourse & Casino, Vancouver features 42,000 sq ft of gaming space with slots open sevens days a week and races from April to October.
Parq Vancouver is one of the newest casinos in the seaport city. Las Vegas developer, Paragon Gaming opened the casino with two upscale hotels in late September 2017 using their license from the Edgewater Casino that closed the same day. The entire complex covers more than 750,000 sq ft with 72,000 sq ft of that devoted to gambling space.
River Rock Casino Resort, Richmond features over 1,000 slots and electronic tables and 114 table games along with poker about 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver. The hotel has nice waterfront views and the Show Theatre offers entertainment.
Starlight Casino, New Westminster has over 800 slots and nearly 50 gaming tables, free parking, and several food and beverage options.
Newton Community Gaming Centre, Surrey offers paper and electronic bingo games, a lottery center, and snacks.
Planet Bingo, Vancouver is a drop-in bingo hall located on Main Street.
Playtime Langley is more of a social center and is known locally as Match Eatery and Public House with casual dining, paper & electronic bingo games.
Fraser Valley Casinos all operated under the Chances name with locations in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Maple Ridge, and Mission. Slots, electronic games, and bingo are available at all as well as Chances Squamish, located on Squamish Nation land.
Vancouver Island offers five gaming venues on the north end and four on the south side. Most are bingo and slots only, but the View Royal Casino has table games, as does Casino Nanaimo on Terminal Ave.
Thompson Okanagan Valley offers seven BCLC casinos and gaming centers, four of which have table games. Kelowna has two facilities. The Chances in Salmon arm is First Nations.
St. Eugene Golf Resort & Casino and Chances Castlegar are located in the Kootenays region for those who want to get away to the mountains. Casino of the Rockies at St. Eugene is a First Nations casino.
Northern BC has casinos in Quesnel and Prince George and five Chances locations throughout the area.
No matter where you go in BC from the multicultural modern city of Vancouver to the far-flung north, you’ll never be far from a slot machine, gaming table, poker room, bingo hall, or lottery retailer. The newer casinos like Parq Vancouver, Elements, and Grand Villa Burnaby are first-class gaming operations with state-of-the-art amenities.