Sports betting in British Columbia remains an industry dominated by gray-market sportsbook options. This guide will cover everything you need to know about the current legal status of sports betting across the province and what your options are.
If you’re interested in getting some action down on a sports game as a BC resident, keep reading for a full breakdown of everything sports betting including the top sportsbooks to use, the most popular sports to bet on, and the different bet types available. As you wait for British Columbia to open its borders to private sportsbooks, get updated on the current state of the province.
British Columbia Sports Betting in 2023
Sports betting in British Columbia remains an industry dominated by gray-market sportsbook options. This guide will cover everything you need to know about the current legal status of sports betting across the province and what your options are.
Best Sportsbooks in Canada
How We Rank the Sportsbooks?
Sports betting in the province has been legal for a while, and you can place your bets using several different offshore sportsbooks. Picking the right sportsbook is essential if you want to ensure a pleasant betting experience, and there are several factors we consider when ranking sportsbooks in British Columbia.
Every sportsbook we recommend will be safe and trustworthy to use and feature a wide selection of sports and events to suit your betting needs. Most sportsbooks will also feature many payment methods to facilitate banking and promise fast deposits and payouts.
Finally, all sportsbooks must offer generous bonuses and promotions to remain competitive. This allows you to try them out with little to no risk and build a sufficient bankroll with minimal investment.
Sports Betting in British Columbia
The Canadian government has allowed legal sports betting in British Columbia and all other provinces since 1985. However, people were only allowed to gamble through the provincial lotteries, and the only legal sports betting type was parlay bets.
Single-game betting, which is one of the most popular types of betting methods, was strictly prohibited across Canada. Naturally, many experienced bettors, who don’t prefer parlay bets due to their increased risk, were left with no legal avenue to place single-game bets.
This changed in 2020 when Saskatchewan MP, Kevin Waugh, proposed new legislation allowing Canadians to place single bets legally. The legislation, named Bill C-218, passed in the House of Commons and the Senate and received Royal Assent in June 2021.
The legislation was set to be implemented across the entire country on August 27, 2021. But, it was up to the local regulatory entities of each province to decide when and if they would integrate Bill C-218 into their regulatory system.
Is Sports Betting Legal in British Columbia?
After the implementation of Bill C-218, British Columbia was one of the first provinces to integrate the new legislation on August 27, 2021. Since then, the legal BC sports betting market has thrived through the legal sports betting platform PlayNow.com.
What Is PlayNow?
PlayNow is an online BC sports betting platform that has been operating since 2004, although it only sold lottery tickets initially. However, sports betting was later added, thus making PlayNow the first online sportsbook in British Columbia. The platform was rebranded in 2012 into PlayNow Sports and began offering other bet types.
PlayNow.com is owned by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), a Canadian Crown corporation responsible for regulating online gambling in the province. The BCLC is also responsible for issuing licenses to third-party sportsbooks that want to enter the British Columbia sports betting market, although none have been granted yet.
Legal BC Sportsbooks
The purpose of Bill C-218 was to combat Canada’s loss of revenue because of BC residents sports betting on offshore sportsbooks. Since Canadians were not allowed to place legal single bets, they would turn to gray-market sportsbooks, which weren’t directly prohibited.
The new legislation aims to provide a legal and safe outlet for residents of Canadian provinces to place their favorite single-game bets. Additionally, it shows Canada’s enthusiasm to extend its online sports betting and gambling markets which would provide increased tax revenues.
PlayNow is currently the only legal online sportsbook in BC and provides a complete gambling experience that includes sports betting, casino games, and lottery tickets. This operation model differs from other Canadian provinces, such as Ontario, which follow an open-market model.
The Future Of Sports Betting In British Columbia
Ever since the implementation of Bill C-218, the BCLC has attempted to encourage sports betting on the PlayNow platform. During the first year of operation with single-game betting implemented, sports betting on PlayNow.com almost doubled, with a total of $170 million placed on single bets.
Additionally, the BCLC saw its net income almost triple compared to the previous fiscal year. This clearly demonstrates that BC residents were eager to place single bets as long as they had a legal platform to do so. In fact, according to a recent study, two out of three BC residents prefer to place their bet on a legal platform run by the province.
The success of PlayNow.com has led the BCLC to expand its services and collaborate with regulatory entities in other provinces like Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It seems that the BCLC is interested in promoting PlayNow even more rather than potentially opening the market to other sportsbooks.
It’s likely that BC officials are also waiting for the long-term effects of Ontario’s open market on the local economy before they allow more sportsbooks in British Columbia. Therefore, BC residents will probably have to wait for a while before they can legally use some of the most popular online sportsbooks, such as DraftKings, FanDuel, Sports Interaction, and BetMGM.
Who Can Bet On Sports in British Columbia?
Even though betting in British Columbia is perfectly legal, some restrictions still apply, as well as some factors to consider before you start betting.
Gambling Age Limit
Different Canadian provinces have different age limits for legal gambling. Betting in BC is allowed for anyone over the age of 19. Anyone under the legal gambling age cannot create an account for PlayNow or other offshore sportsbooks.
If you want to use the PlayNow platform, you must be physically present in British Columbia. Some Canadian provinces require you to verify your bets at a land-based location, such as provincial lotteries, but PlayNow allows you to complete the whole process online.
Mobile Sports Betting
In the age of smartphones, mobile betting should be an essential aspect of any sportsbook. While PlayNow doesn’t have a proper mobile app, You can use offshore sportsbooks that provides an exciting mobile betting experience.
Currently, there are no retail BC sportsbooks. However, the BCLC has attempted to bring the PlayNow platform to more physical locations. During Super Bowl LVI, several pubs and bars had screens with live odds for the match. Customers could place bets through the PlayNow platforms and were even given a $10 free bet.
Canadians are not subjected to any taxes for gambling activities. Therefore, BC residents are free to enjoy their total winnings from sports betting without worrying about tax payments
Are There Any Offshore Sportsbooks in BC?
Besides the legal British Columbia sports betting platform, several offshore sportsbooks accept BC residents. Offshore sportsbooks are providers who aren’t fully licensed or regulated to operate in the province but still hold licenses from offshore jurisdictions.
These gray-market sportsbooks are usually licensed in countries such as Panama, Curaçao, or Malta, which provides some form of safety and security. While these sportsbooks don’t have a license from British Columbia, it’s not technically prohibited for players to use them. The sportsbooks utilize loopholes and gray areas in gambling laws and regulations to accept players from a specific country or jurisdiction.
With the addition of the regulated PlayNow platform, British Columbians can now choose between a fully legal option that supports the local economy and offshore sportsbooks that offer more perks and bonuses.
How to Start Betting in British Columbia?
Now that you have a better understanding of how sports betting in British Columbia works, let’s look at how you can begin your BC betting journey today. Here are the few simple steps you need to follow to start online betting:
Pick A Sportsbook
Before you start betting, you need to choose which sportsbooks you’ll use. You can opt for the legal PlayNow platform or bet with offshore sportsbooks. Both have their pros and cons, and it ultimately depends on which features are most important to you.
In any case, make sure your preferred sportsbook has all the sports and leagues you want to bet on. Additionally, ensure that the sportsbook offers the payment option you want to use for your deposits.
Sign Up For An Account
Creating a new account for any sportsbook is usually a quick and easy process. If you choose to bet with an offshore sportsbook like Sports Interaction, simply navigate to their website and click the “Sign Up” button in the top right corner. Remember that you must be over 19 and be prepared to confirm your identity to use the Sports Interaction platform.
You’ll need to fill in your personal details, such as your date of birth, full name, and address, which you’ll need to verify. Once you’re done with the verification process, your account will be ready to use.
Claim A Bonus
All sportsbooks in British Columbia will offer lucrative welcome bonuses to entice new players to join them. Offshore sportsbooks usually provide significantly larger bonuses and promotions in order to fend off the competition.
Sports Interaction is currently offering new users a welcome bonus that includes a 100% deposit match worth up to $1,000 in bet credits. When you sign-up for Sports Interaction, simply click on the promotion to have it applied to your newly created account. This is a great example of the impressive bonuses offered by offshore sportsbooks.
Make Your First Deposit
Making your first deposit is the next step in your betting journey. Your first deposit doesn’t only determine how big your bankroll will be to start, but it’s also crucial for claiming those great welcome bonuses. For example, in order to claim the Sports Interaction welcome bonus and start betting, you need to make a minimum first deposit of $20. All offshore sportsbooks like Sports Interaction will offer several different banking options to choose from, including credit/debit cards, PayPal, Interac Online, and Apple Pay.
Interac Deposit, in particular, is a very convenient method to deposit online without needing a credit card. Many Canadians already have set up Interac to send e-transfers to friends and family. Sports Interaction lets you use the same method to fund your account. Additionally, unlike traditional card payments, you don’t have to deal with any deposit fees.
Place A Bet
Once your offshore sportsbook account is ready and loaded with money, it’s time to place your first bet. Navigate to your preferred major league or other event and choose the match you want to bet on. Then, select your preferred market and add it to your bet slip.
Finally, go to your bet slip, input the amount you want to wager, and place your bet. That’s it! Relax, enjoy the match, and root for your bet to win.
Popular Sports & Betting Markets in British Columbia
Canadians are generally very fond of sports, and the situation is no different in British Columbia. There are several popular sports that have many fans in the state, including:
🏒 Ice Hockey: Ice hockey is known as the national winter sport of Canada. The modern indoor version of the sport was developed in Canada, along with the creation of the Stanley Cup.
Additionally, the original concept of the National Hockey League (NHL) was created in Canada and consisted of four Canadian teams. Later on, it moved to the United States but still includes seven Canadian franchises to this day.
🥍Lacrosse: Lacrosse is largely unknown across the world, but it’s the oldest organized sport in North America. It was initially played by the indigenous tribes of North America in the 12th century.
The modern version of the game was developed in North America and is considered Canada’s national summer sport.
Currently, the only professional league in North America is the National Lacrosse League, which consists of five Canadian and eight US teams. They play an indoor version of the sport known as box lacrosse.
🏀 Basketball: Basketball is a world-renowned sport with a wide appeal to Canadian sports fans. While there is a dedicated professional basketball league in the country, most fans are drawn to the National Basketball Association (NBA).
Most talented Canadian basketball players are part of NBA teams, and there’s even a dedicated Canadian Franchise, the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors enjoyed recent success and an increase in their fandom thanks to their title win in 2019.
🏈 Canadian Football: Canadian Football is a unique sport similar to American football but with some key differences. The sport has its origins in Rugby football, but over time, a new set of rules was developed that differentiated the sport altogether.
The sport is played at a professional level through the Canadian Football League (CFL), as well as at a semi-professional and collegiate level. Its popularity in provinces such as British Columbia can even surpass that of the National Football League (NFL).
🥊 MMA: Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a very popular form of fighting with a huge fan base in Canada. The Canadian system allows some of their best fighters to compete in all major fighting contests, including the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Moreover, Canada has had several notable fighters in the past, including Georges St-Pierre, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time. St-Pierre has had a very decorated career, including winning the UFC title in two different weight divisions.
Most Popular BC Sports Betting Markets
Most sportsbooks will offer dozens of betting markets to suit their players’ needs. However, there are some key markets you'll find in every sportsbook since they are the most popular. These include:
MoneyLine: Money lines are by far the most common and easiest-to-understand betting market. When you place a bet on the money line, you essentially bet on who will win the match outright. Money lines usually come with a set of odds that have a favorite and an underdog.
If you’re familiar with American odds, favorites are usually indicated by a minus sign (e.g. -110), whereas underdogs are shown with a plus sign (e.g. +200). Money lines are very easy to bet because you don’t have to worry about any other win conditions. If the team wins, your bet also wins.
Point Spread: Point spreads are also known as handicaps and are a very popular betting market in specific sports like American football and basketball. In order to cover a point spread, a team needs to win by a certain number of points or more.
For instance, let’s assume an NFL game of the Dallas Cowboys (+4) vs. the San Francisco 49ers (-4). If you bet on the 49ers to cover the spread, they need to win by five or more points for your bet to win.
If they win by three or fewer points or outright lose, then your bet loses. If they win by exactly four points, then your bet is considered a “push”, and you just get your stake back.
Points Total: Points totals are also called over/under bets and refer to the total number of points scored in a match by both teams combined. In a points total bet, you get a certain number of points and choose to bet over or under that number. This way, you don’t need to worry about which team will win. All you need is for the score to stay over or under a particular number.
For instance, in an NBA game of the Toronto Raptors against the Milwaukee Bucks, the line for the points total is set at 230.5. If you bet over this line, you need a total score of 231 points for your bet to win. If the total is 230 points or less, your bet loses.
Player & Team Props: Proposition bets or “prop” bets are events that can occur during a match and don’t necessarily affect the game's outcome. These special bets are ideal in bouts where anything can happen, and it’s difficult to predict the winner or the final score.
There are specific prop bets for teams and players. Some examples of team props include the “First Team To Score”, “Both Teams To Score (BTTS)”, and “Will The Game Go To Overtime?”.
Comparatively, player props focus on specific player tasks, like how many points they will score or how many passing yards they will complete. Player props can be very profitable if you bet on someone with a distinct trait, such as how many three-point shots Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors will score.
Future Bets: Future bets refer to the outright winners for a specific competition or league. They are usually placed weeks or months in advance to secure the best possible odds. This betting market is perfect if you just want to support a specific team that you think will do well over a season.
The most common future bets include the winners of major leagues and trophies, such as the Stanley Cup, the Super Bowl, and the NBA Finals. They often come with very generous odds, even if you bet on the top favorite, which can make them very profitable.
Other Types of Bets in BC
Sports like football, basketball, and ice hockey are the most popular when it comes to betting in British Columbia. But there are also other events that gather plenty of betting interest. Some of these include:
- Esports: The Esports scene has exploded over the past few years, with more and more people enjoying them daily. Esports essentially refers to leagues and championships where professional video game players compete to win large prizes.
You can find Esports betting markets for several popular games on PlayNow.com and most offshore sportsbooks.
- Politics: Betting on politics is particularly popular in British Columbia, especially when there’s an upcoming election. You won’t find any political bets involving British Columbia or Canada, but you will find odds for international ones, such as the US Presidential Election.
- Entertainment & Awards: Many bettors enjoy wagering on who will win a particular entertainment program or awards ceremony. You can often find odds for winners or next eliminations for popular talent or reality shows, as well as odds for winners in the Oscars or the Emmys.
- University Sports: Even though it’s legal to bet on university sports in British Columbia, regulated platforms like PlayNow do not offer this bet type. If you’re a fan of betting on university sports, you should look into some offshore sportsbooks that provide odds for major university competitions.
Popular Teams In British Columbia
With so many sports being popular in British Columbia, it’s no surprise that the province has several successful professional teams. Some of the most renowned ones include:
By far the most popular team in British Columbia, the Vancouver Canucks have competed in the NHL since 1970. The Canucks have reached the Stanley Cup finals three times in their history, yet they still haven’t won the coveted trophy. They’ve won many Division and Conference championships, but their form has declined over the past years.
The BC Lions are a Canadian football team that competes in the CFL. The Lions were founded in 1954, making them the oldest active professional sports team in British Columbia. They have been very successful throughout their history, with 10 Grey Cup finals appearances and six Grey Cup wins.
The Vancouver Whitecaps are a soccer team that has competed in Major League Soccer (MLS) since 2011. In 2012, the Whitecaps qualified for the MLS Cup playoffs, becoming the first Canadian team to achieve this. One of the most talented Canadian soccer players ever, Alphonso Davies, grew up playing for the Whitecaps before his big move to Bayern Munich.
Other Types Of Gambling in British Columbia
If you’re not a sports betting fan but still want to enjoy some online gambling in British Columbia, there are several other types of gambling to choose from.
Online & Retail Casinos
British Columbia is home to many retail casinos where you can play all your favorite slots and table games. Additionally, there are lots of online options including a litany of offshore sportsbooks and casinos. For example, Sports Interaction has both a sportsbook and a casino.
Whether you’re looking for slots, blackjack, baccarat, or other special games, you’ll find them on the Sports Interaction online website.
If you're a fan of poker, then you’ll be happy to know that you can find many poker tables in most of British Columbia's local casinos. In addition, you can also find lots of online casinos that offer poker tables.
888sport has a fully dedicated poker website, there you will find lots of different poker options and tables.
Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) is a very popular gambling format worldwide. Until recently, BC residents had no legal outlet to enjoy it. But, the passing of Bill C-218 has also legalized DFS in British Columbia.
Some of the best DFS providers worldwide, such as FanDuel and DraftKings, are already in operation for DFS within the province, although they are not permitted to run a sportsbook.
Horse Race Betting
BC is home to several race tracks, and many people are huge fans of horse race betting in British Columbia. While PlayNow doesn’t offer odds for horse races. You can still find plenty of offshore sportsbooks in British Columbia that will allow you to bet on your favorite horses.
How to Play Responsibly In British Columbia?
We went into detail about the laws and regulations regarding BC sports betting, as well as how to start betting in the province. But are there any measures in place to help with responsible gambling?
The government of BC has implemented The Responsible and Problem Gambling Program, which provides free information regarding responsible play. In addition, it offers free support and treatment to anyone who has issues with gambling.
The BCLC has also launched a responsible gambling program called GameSense. GameSense has been around for more than a decade and has helped countless people in BC, as well as other provinces and even some US states.
Finally, there’s the Voluntary Self-Exclusion Program, that’s helped thousands of players with severe gambling problems. This program is a personal tool to utilize if you have issues controlling your gambling habits. If you sign up for it, you won’t be allowed to play at any retail or online gambling facility.
Sportsbooks to Avoid
While most sportsbooks in British Columbia are safe and secure to use, there are some with undesirable traits. In general, you should avoid any sportsbook with no licensing.
Even though gray-market sportsbooks aren’t regulated by the Canadian government, they are still subject to certain laws and regulations. If a sportsbook has no license, it can cause a lot of problems, primarily regarding deposits and withdrawals.
In addition, if you ever come across a sportsbook that offers significantly better odds than others, it should raise your suspicion, and you’re better off avoiding it. This is especially true if it’s a sportsbook that is not very well-known and lacks a strong reputation. If it seems too good to be true, it likely is.
Licensed vs. Unlicensed Betting Sites
The British Columbia sports betting market has several sportsbooks to choose from, both licensed and unlicensed. Legal online sportsbooks, such as PlayNow, have been authorized to operate in the province by the BCLC, whereas gray-market sportsbooks, like Bet365, don’t have an official license issued by the BCLC.
However, many reputable offshore sportsbooks in British Columbia have actually acquired iGO licenses from Ontario. While these are technically not considered official in BC, it shows the sportsbooks’ dedication to providing a legal betting option in provinces that allow it.
Why Should I Use a Licensed Site?
Both licensed and unlicensed sportsbooks have their pros and cons. Gray market sportsbooks are often the preferred choice for veteran bettors who prefer large bonuses and the best odds possible to be profitable. Additionally, offshore sportsbooks often provide a wider variety of sports and leagues to bet on.
Still, there are plenty of advantages to opting for a fully legal sportsbook, including:
- Personal & financial information security
- Supports the local economy through taxes
- Has programs for responsible gambling
- Provides a complete gambling experience
Is single-game betting in British Columbia legal?
Yes, single-game bets are fully legal in British Columbia. BC was one of the first seven Canadian provinces to legalize single bets on August 27, 2021, through the implementation of Bill C-218. Single-game betting and all gambling matters are regulated through the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC).
How do I register for online sportsbooks in British Columbia?
In order to start online betting in British Columbia, you need to sign up with an online sportsbook. You’ll need to be over 19 and currently present in the province to legally gamble. To register, simply visit the sportsbook’s website, click the “Join” button, fill in your personal information, and complete the verification process.
How many BC sportsbooks are there?
Currently, the only legal and fully licensed sportsbook that operates in BC is PlayNow, which is owned by the BCLC. There are also offshore sportsbooks that accept customers from British Columbia but don’t have access to an official license from the province.
How do I deposit money to an online sportsbook?
Most online sportsbooks in British Columbia will offer you several banking options. If you want to deposit money on your offshore sportsbook of choice, you can use one of its secure payment methods. Just sign in to your account and navigate to the “Deposit” page. From there, choose your preferred payment method and the amount you want to deposit.
How do I withdraw from PlayNow?
Your only option for withdrawing your winnings up to $100,000 from PlayNow is through your bank account. If you want to withdraw a larger amount, you’ll get it by cheque. Log in to your PlayNow account and navigate to the Withdraw Funds page in My Account to make your withdrawal.
Are there any limits to sports betting in BC?
In general, there aren’t any specific limits. However, most betting markets will have a maximum amount you can wager. Also, according to the PlayNow betting conditions, the maximum payout for a single winning bet is CAD 50,000.
Is there a self-exclusion program in BC?
British Columbia has many programs to help people with gambling issues, including GameSense and The Responsible and Problem Gambling Program. There’s also the Voluntary Self-Exclusion (VSE) program, which prohibits players from signing up for online gambling accounts or visiting land-based casinos.
What is combo play?
A combo play is a quick and simple way to play multiple selections in lottery games. For instance, let’s assume you want to play a Combo 5 in a lottery game. You pick your favorite five numbers, and the sixth number is randomly generated from the remaining lotto numbers. The combo play creates multiple tickets for all the number combinations, so you win numerous rewards.
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