British Columbia’s government-run online gambling site PlayNow.com is boosting its weekly deposit limits by a factor of 10 to encourage high-rollers to ditch their internationally licensed online accounts.
On Wednesday, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) announced that it was upping its weekly transfer-in limit for PlayNow customers from C$9,999 to C$100k (US$75,200). The site will also allow players to keep up to C$250k in their online accounts rather than the previous C$9,999 limit.
The Crown corporation said the change was intended to “expand [PlayNow’s] appeal and move high limit players away from unregulated, grey market gambling sites.” BCLC said around 73% of the province’s online gamblers currently patronize internationally licensed online gambling sites that “do not pay taxes, support jobs in BC, nor deliver profits to the province” (but offer far better value for customers’ gambling dollar).
BCLC’s naked grab for high-roller cash flow comes despite the Crown corporation’s highly-publicized failures in policing VIP gambling activity at provincially-owned land-based casinos. This month, an inquiry is set to examine the Crown corporation’s willingness to look the other way while Asian VIPs laundered millions in dodgy cash, which made BCLC a valuable contributor to the provincial government’s budget.
BCLC insists that PlayNow’s requirement that deposits be made via Canadian bank accounts or credit cards will ensure “appropriate financial oversight and anti-money laundering controls,” but honestly, BCLC’s credibility has long since been shredded (along with documentation regarding VIP gambling at its casinos).
BCLC’s original C$9,999 limits were specifically intended to circumvent rules set by the federal Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (FINTRAC) to report all transactions of C$10k or higher. In 2010, FINTRAC fined BCLC C$670k for its failures to report transactions over these limits, the only one of Canada’s provincial gambling monopolies to be so penalized.
What’s more, BCLC’s pursuit of VIP online gamblers stands in direct contrast with efforts by other online gambling markets to reduce their VIP focus. Bear in mind that a 2017 study showed that PlayNow derived nearly 46% of its online casino turnover from just 619 players, and this was before BCLC decided to open its deposit floodgates.
BCLC’s historical prioritizing of profit over everything convinced the province’s new government to finally end the Crown corporation’s inherently conflicted dual role as both gambling operator and regulator. But since the new independent regulatory body won’t be up and running until early next year — and land-based revenue growth has stalled following new anti-money laundering rules — BCLC appears intent on making one last grab at the VIP pot of gold.