There are a wealth of possibilities for gamblers in British Columbia, with all kinds of casinos, racetracks and more, not to mention many thousands of lottery and scratch card retailers. But how old do you need to be before all of these things are available to you?
In this guide we’ll look at the legal gambling age in BC, while also delving a little deeper into the punishments for those who break the law, how those laws apply to tourists, and the other things you need to know as a young gambler in the province of British Columbia.
Legal Gambling Age in British Columbia
First things first: the legal gambling age in BC is 19. Unlike Ontario, which has two separate age barriers for several different gambling activities, there is only one in British Columbia. This means that you need to be 19 to do everything from play the lottery to enter the casino and more.
In fact, you can’t do anything that is legally defined as gambling, which under Canadian law is something that involves a “bet” on a “game”. A bet is then defined as an incentivized monetary stake, while a game is “a game of chance or mixed chance and skill”. This pretty much covers every gambling game you can think of, whether you’re betting on the outcome of a video game with a friend, or you’re staking big money on a roulette table.
But don’t despair if you’re 18, because there are some times when this law doesn’t apply, times when you may be able to gamble in BC if you’re aged just 18.
Gambling Under the Age of 19
If you are an 18 year old BC resident then there are still some options at your disposal when it comes to gambling, but it’s important to be very careful as there could be some unfortunate consequences if you’re not (more on that below). The most obvious one is to simply visit another province.
In Ontario, for instance, you can play the lottery and buy scratch cards if you are 18 or above. Contrary to what many people think, lotteries and scratch cards are very rarely tied to a specific location, and they do not base their laws on the nationality or residence of the purchaser, but rather on the region in which it is purchased.
In other words, if you live in a country where lotteries are not legal and visit Canada as a tourist, you can still win the lottery and claim your winnings. This is also true if you do not meet the gambling age in your country but do meet the gambling age in the region where you bought your ticket.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, and those exceptions apply to national lotteries. But if you are playing a regional lottery, of which there are many, then you’re good to go. You can also purchase lottery tickets in other countries, and in some countries, such as the UK, you can do this even if you are 16 or 17.
There is also another way to gamble in BC before you reach the age of 19, and this time you can actually gain access to casino games. Keep reading to the end of this article to learn more.
Punishments for Underage Gambling
An establishment caught selling lottery tickets to an underage player can face sizeable fines and may also lose their license altogether. This is not unprecedented and is actually more common than you might think.
The underage gambler is rarely charged with anything and at most will receive a caution and/or a suspension from the establishment in question. But a prospective underage gambler also has very little inventive to actually go through with such an act. They may be able to lie/trick/chance their way into purchasing a lottery ticket or a scratch card, but the winnings from these tickets are only paid to players above the legal gambling age.
You may be able to claim a few bucks if the win is small, but if it’s a sizeable win then you will need to prove your age and once you do, you’ll miss out. This can also happen at racetracks and casinos—the cashier may ask to see your ID at any time and if you are underage they can refuse to pay you your innings.
Online Casinos in BC
You always need to abide by the rules and regulations of the country you’re in. As discussed already, this can lead to more accessible or less accessible gambling, depending on where you are. But it also means that you can throw open the virtual doors of the world’s biggest online casinos as soon as you turn 18.
These casinos are nearly always based in Europe, where the legal age for casino gambling is 18. And because they are based in Europe, where they are also licensed and regulated, it means you only need to be 18 in order to play there. You may still face some issues with regards to transferring money, especially if you’re using a Canadian account, so we still recommend waiting until you are 19 if you are a BC resident, but the option is there.
Overseas online gambling exists in somewhat of a grey area, one that millions of Canadians take advantage of every single year. Simply put, a casino that is fully regulated and licensed in one country can offer its services to players in another if they believe that they are not blatantly disregarding the criminal code of that country.
Where Canada is concerned, the Criminal Code does not actually say anything about online gambling, and through inactivity and acceptance the government has also made it pretty clear that they have no intention of stopping international sites operating here.
So, if you find a reputable online casino operating in Europe and allowing Canadian players to join, then you’re free to signup, place your bets, and take your chances. If you want to signup to a site that many other BC residents have joined and have been playing on without issue, then click the link at the top of this page.
It will take you to the latest bonuses and promotions offered by Canada’s current number 1 gambling site. This site, like all good Canadian casinos, is based in Europe, but goes out of its way to ensure Canadian players are welcome.