B.C. eyes mobile gambling apps

Trying to maintain market share in rapidly evolving gambling business, B.C. Lottery Corporation is looking at expanding its online games and tickets to mobile phones and tablets.

Cabinet minister Rich Coleman announces launch of B.C. Lottery Corporation's online gambling site in July 2010.

VICTORIA – Trying to maintain market share in rapidly evolving gambling business, B.C. Lottery Corporation is looking at expanding its online games and tickets to mobile phones and tablets.

BCLC launched its gambling website PlayNow.com a year ago, as unregulated internet poker websites started cutting into the province’s lucrative casino and lottery business. B.C. was the first government in North America to jump into online gambling, and PlayNow.com now bills itself as “B.C.’s only legal gambling website.”

At the July 2010 launch, cabinet minister Rich Coleman estimated that B.C. residents were spending $100 million a year on online gambling, and made no apologies for encouraging BCLC to go online and raise its betting limit to $9,999.

Now some of those unregulated sites are moving to smart phone and tablet applications, and BCLC is preparing to do the same. A survey asks PlayNow.com customers if they would use their mobile devices to play lotteries, poker, casino games and sports betting.

A BCLC spokesperson said no decision has been made yet to proceed with mobile gambling.

PlayNow.com now has 170,000 registered players, and is running ahead of expectations, despite an initial software glitch that mixed up player bank accounts and forced a month-long shutdown.

Online gambling still represents only one per cent of the corporation’s revenues, but that’s expected to grow to four per cent by 2014. The bulk of BCLC’s more than $1 billion annual profit comes from conventional lotteries and casinos, as slot machines have displaced bingo games in recent years.

After returning some of the gambling-funded community grants that were cut in 2009, Premier Christy Clark appointed former Kwantlen University president Skip Triplett to review eligibility for the grants and stabilize funding for non-profit groups.

Triplett’s community forums begin Aug. 11 on Vancouver Island, moving to the B.C. Interior and finishing in Metro Vancouver in September.