BCLC Enhances GameSense as Casinos Remain Closed

The outlook for casinos in British Columbia is dim at the moment. Though the number of COVID-19 cases is steadily decreasing, the government and health officials are not keen to reopen any venues that allow for large gatherings. The casinos will remain closed for the indefinite future.

At the same time, more players have taken to the online games, such as lottery tickets and parlay sports wagering. That triggered the British Columbia Lottery Corporation to enhance support for gamblers through its GameSense program.

Enhanced Player Support

When casinos and bingo halls across British Columbia shut down on March 16, 2020, players were left with little in the way of entertainment. The option to buy lotto tickets at the corner store was no longer an option, either.

People immediately took to the online gambling world. They could do some forms of gambling through the BCLC website, such as lottery and sports wagering, and they found numerous other online casinos catering to Canadian customers for everything from poker to online bingo.

The BCLC already has a plethora of tools available to players seeking gambling help, as well as those around them that might need similar help. But the primary outreach tool has been GameSense.

Many of the members of the GameSense support team, however, were located in BCLC casinos and gaming clubs. With all of those venues shut down, online gambling assistance is all that remains. And with those venues closed for the foreseeable future, the BCLC expanded the ways that GameSense advisors can reach out to the community.

Letter to Players

BCLC Player Health Director Jamie Wiebe, Ph.D., penned an open letter to the BC community. She started off by saying that the casinos and community gaming centres remain temporarily closed, but BCLC GameSense advisors remain available.

With the GameSense information centres closed in those land-based locations, the BCLC offers virtual ways to connect with helpful advisors, whether by phone or via online chat.

  • GameSense telephone availability 8am-12am PST (1-866-815-0222)
  • GameSense online chat 8am-12am PST (PlayNow.com)
  • BC Responsible and Problem Gambling Program 24 hours/day (BC.ResponsibleGambling.ca)
  • BC Gambling Support telephone contact (1-888-795-6111)
  • BC Gambling Support email (problem.gambling@gov.bc.ca)

The BC government’s problem gambling assistance program – the third one listed above – is open around the clock. Any resident of BC can input their basic information with a phone number, and an advisor will call back. It can be cone confidentially as well.

As for Wiebe’s letter, she reminds players that GameSense advisors are “excellent listeners and, if needed, can help connect players to available support resources if they feel they need help.”

Closed for How Long?

The COVID-19 situation in BC has been steadily improving.

As of May 12, there were 2,360 confirmed cases in the province. There were 131 deaths, with 63 people remaining hospitalized and 16 admitted to intensive care units. The Provincial Health Services Authority and BC Centre for Disease Control publish and update these numbers.

The high point of cases came on March 25 with 88 reported cases, though numbers steadily decreased daily from there. However, another jump pushed numbers back up to 70 on April 21, and the process of lowering the numbers began again. Since April 24, though, the downward trend has encouraged health officials.

BC has yet to establish a specific timeline for reopening businesses, as it is choosing to take small steps when the numbers dictate.

Casinos Low on the List

The upcoming holiday weekend will bring openings of parks, public beaches, and even lifeguards at those beaches. Some retail stores and hair salons are preparing to open, albeit with strict health and safety precautions in place.

Other expectations for May include restaurants, child care, libraries, museums, elective surgeries, dental services, physiotherapy, with overnight camping following in June. The goal is to open hotels and movie theaters in the summer, and get students back to schools in September.

And then there are establishments at the very bottom of the list of reopenings: nightclubs, bars, and casinos.

Just last week, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said bingo halls, casinos, and community gaming centers were “last on my list to consider for reopening at this point.” She said that casinos are enclosed spaces that increase COVID-19 risks, and many patrons are older with underlying health conditions.

The BC Gaming Industry Association is working with the BCLC on a proposal to submit to Dr. Henry for consideration regarding casinos. They hope that separating machines, gamblers, and tables to comply with physical distancing requirements will help, as will new sanitation and disinfection protocols.


Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. From her days in the WPT offices to covering summers of WSOP tournament action, she also followed gambling legislation to Washington D.C. and women-only poker to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, she lived in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for many years before moving back to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Now, Jen travels less, writing about poker and online gambling from her home with her two dogs watching her every move. In her spare time, she follows politics, works on her never-finished novels, and learns Italian in the hopes of retiring to Italy someday.

If you want to know more, you can follow Jen on Twitter @WriterJen


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