BCLC Upgrades Sports Betting but Keeps Casinos Closed

Is that the British Columbia Lottery Corporation peeking out from behind the pandemic with some news this month?

Yes, it certainly is.

The BCLC made several bits of news this month, first with the appointment of a new Chief Compliance Officer and then with a new digital sports betting services contract. But as the people of BC look to the regulator for news of their favorite casinos and bingo halls reopening for business, that is simply not yet in the cards.

Welcoming Savoie

Last week, the BCLC announced the arrival of Marie-Noelle Savoie to the position of Chief Compliance Officer. It seems she is also the Vice President of Legal, Compliance and Security. She will begin work in the Vancouver office on June 29.

The hire completed the BCLC executive team hires for now. A little reorganizing later in 2020 will put the two newest Vice Presidents in the Kamloops, while Interim President and CEO Greg Moore will work from both offices.

Bringing in Scientific Games

The BCLC awarded the latest multi-year contract for digital sports betting services on PlayNow.com to Scientific Games Corporation. The globally recognized and publicly traded company is based out of Las Vegas and caters to some of the largest gaming markets in the world, both land-based and online.

Scientific Games has worked with the BCLC in the past and in other realms, though this is the first foray for the partnership in online sports betting. This will put Scientific Games to the task of improving the parlayed sports wagering offerings on PlayNow.com and include novelty bets. This will help fill the gap left by professional sports that started during the coronavirus shutdowns. In general, it will create a more diverse portfolio of betting options going forward.

As players in British Columbia and elsewhere in Canada await the opportunity to – someday – bet on single sports events, they must continue with parlayed action for now. This means they must bet on a minimum of two events at one time.

BCLC Considers Casinos Again

The people of BC may seem a bit impatient as they wait for their casinos to reopen. This is likely because casinos in Alberta opened more than one week ago, and other territories are moving in that direction as well.

Last week, however, BCLC CEO Moore told NL News that he wasn’t quite ready to give the green light for casinos to unlock their doors. “We’re working really hard at BCLC with our service providers and putting together a full health and safety guideline for all of our casinos around British Columbia,” he said. “We are sending that information, working with the Attorney General to assure that we can open safely.”

The decision to reopen does not rest solely with Moore, as he continues to listen to health officials for approvals. Casinos are some of the most complicated facilities to open and maintain healthy environments within.

Reportedly, customers in casinos will find that they receive small bottles of hand sanitizer when they enter the properties – when they do reopen – and plexiglass will be installed between slot machines that are too close together. Other situations may dictate that every other slot machine be turned off.

Health officials are likely looking to nearby Alberta and even Las Vegas, as casinos reopen in those places. It is helpful to see what those properties do and how it works.

As for card games, players will probably not be able to access games like poker for some time after the casinos reopen. This is because of the frequency with which players and dealers touch the chips and cards. Moore said he is considering sanitizing chips after every game or at other periodic markers, but those decisions have yet to be made.

The bottom line, Moore said, is to answer a basic question: “How can we make this as safe as possible?”

Noting Alberta Actions

As BC looks to Alberta for guidance, its casinos opened last week to solid numbers, but everyone – customers and employees – are operating with caution in mind.

Century Casinos in Edmonton and Calgary, for example, opened on June 13, nearly two months after the shutdown began. Each property implemented “comprehensive sanitizing and social distancing protocols based on Alberta Health Services guidelines and newly established industry standards at the properties.”

Pure Casino Yellowhead worked closely with Alberta Health Services, AGLC, and government officials to integrate recommended guidelines. All high-touch areas will be sanitized and cleaned frequently, electrostatic sprayers will disinfect all surfaces at the end of each day, and employees will wear masks and gloves. The staff will encourage customers to do the same but not require it. There will also be hand sanitizer stations located around the casino.

It is highly likely that the BCLC will implement many of these same policies when preparing for a reopening date for its own casinos.


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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