Published: February 23, 2022

Lottery corporation calls foul as ‘grey market’ gambling companies target British Columbia market

BCLC expects windfall from single-event betting but online gambling sites from other jurisdictions will cut into revenues

 After the legalization of single event sports betting in British Columbia, the BC Lottery Corp is finding that stiff competition from companies outside the province is making it difficult " to compete for advertising and sponsorship opportunities that enhance the brand’s presence and draw players to the only legal option in our province" | Chung Chow

Last summer’s legalization of single-event sports gambling in Canada is turning into a good news, bad news story for B.C. Lottery Corp. (BCLC).

According to its three-year service plan, published Feb. 22 with the provincial budget, the Crown gambling monopoly predicts seven per cent revenue growth in the 2022-23 fiscal year through its PlayNow branded division. However, competition from elsewhere will pose a challenge.

“While we are projecting continued growth, online gambling sites that operate illegally in B.C. (characterized as ‘grey market’) are increasing their investments in sponsorships and advertising here and across the country,” said the BCLC service plan. “As a result, it is becoming more costly for to compete for advertising and sponsorship opportunities that enhance the brand’s presence and draw players to the only legal option in our province – the only one that delivers profits to fund healthcare, education and community programs.”

BCLC specifically pointed to Ontario, where that province’s regulator, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission, is licensing online gambling companies that have already taken bets illegally from British Columbians. One of those companies, BetRivers, was a heavy advertiser on CBC’s Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics coverage. 

“In preparation for their legal entry into the Ontario gambling market, some operators are developing national partnerships with media companies and sports leagues, resulting in further competition and challenges for when it comes to B.C.-based media and marketing partnerships,” the service plan said.

At casinos, BCLC forecasts 3,906 reports of potential crimes by the end of the current fiscal year, as per internal reporting on its iTrak database. BCLC market research found only 54% of British Columbians perceive gambling at BCLC-partnered casinos to be safe and secure.

BCLC said it had insufficient data to assess the impact of the omicron variant on casino operations, but it does forecast a 2022-23 decrease of lottery revenue by seven per cent at a time when it is replacing 3,500 lottery terminals across the province.

BCLC reported $430 million net income in 2020-21, but hopes to improve to $1.225 billion this year and $1.452 billion by the next.

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