The Canadian provincial government for British Columbia will announce a significant expansion of its online offering this week, regulating and legalising online casino games in a first for North America, the Vancouver Sun reports.
The newspaper says that Minister of Housing and Social Development Rich Coleman, who oversees the B.C. Lottery Corp., is expected this morning to announce 75 new online games for the corporation’s website, Playnow.com.
The games will be broken into separate categories, including bingo, lottery, sports betting and casino games. The casino-style games are expected to include blackjack, roulette and poker, among others.
The B.C. Lottery Corp.’s website was taken down Wednesday, and a message on the site said both BCLC.com and PlayNow.com would relaunch as of noon North West Canadian time Thursday.
The online expansion follows a move by the B.C. Lottery Corp. last August to dramatically increase the weekly limit for players on Playnow.com, bringing the cap to $9,999 a week, up from the previous limit of $120 a week.
At the time of that increase, the corporation raised the possibility of casino-style games going online, adding they may be designed so players could access them not only from computers, but also from portable devices, such as an iPhone, BlackBerry or iPad.
The corporation has previously said only registered members whose ages and addresses have been verified will be able to open an online account.
One of the benefits of expanding online gambling cited by government is to provide a provincially regulated alternative to private websites.
The new PlayNow.com website is expected to include visible links to support programs for people who may be seeking help with a gambling addiction or related problem. There will also be safeguards in place to ensure proper online security and reminders about responsible gambling.
According to the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, gambling in B.C. generated revenues of about Cdn$2.52 billion dollars in 2009-10. After expenses, including prize payouts and other costs, government revenues from gambling for that year were about Cdn$1.07 billion.
The announcement also comes on the heels of news that the B.C. Lottery Corp. is working with other Canadian provinces to create what could become a nationwide online gambling network .
In May this year, a gambling consultant working with Atlantic Lottery said that organisation and Loto-Quebec would be launching a common online platform this fall, and that he expected other provinces to follow suit within about 18 months.
Loto Québec has since confirmed it is partnering with GTechG2 and Openbet in opening up online gambling operations later this year.