07/21/2015 10:03 EDT | Updated 07/21/2016 05:59 EDT

BCLC profits boosted by $100,000 bets of high rollers

Gamblers who wager up to $100,000 at high-limit tables in British Columbia casinos helped B.C. Lottery Corporation earn its highest profits to date last year.

The Crown corporation turned a net profit of $1.25 billion in 2014-15, according to its annual report, released last week. The profit was $80 million more than in the previous year, making it the corporation's highest ever annual net profit.

The report cited the "exceptional performance" at the province's special VIP rooms in casinos in Richmond and Coquitlam. There, gamblers at high-limit table games can place bets up to $100,000. Previously, the limit was $45,000. The change took effect in January 2014

These games are popular with tourists and gamblers from Asia, the corporation noted.

However, lottery chairman Bud Smith warned profits could ebb because "there is risk in this revenue stream as it is heavily dependent on a relatively small international player base.

"The recent slowdown in some national economies and international currency restrictions present business risks," Smith wrote

Strategy built on tourists

Lottery spokesperson Laura Piva-Babcock said some Asian visitors have told the corporation that they want to play at high-limit gaming tables

"Our strategy centres mainly on tourists and visitors to the country who are here often for business and family visits," Piva-Babcock said in an email.

"They have told us they like to play in casinos as part of their entertainment while they are here. We are focused on the unique preferences of players who have the wealth and desire to play at higher limits. This includes more private and semi-private salons for baccarat with levels of customer service that are comparable to what can be expected in similar salons in casinos around the world."

The report said that an estimated 51 per cent of B.C. adults gambled at least once a month last year through the BCLC. That is down from 69 per cent in 2012.

Correction : A previous version of this story mistakenly said BCLC made a profit of $1.25 million in 2014-15, up from $80 million in the previous year. In fact it made a profit of $1.25 billion, which was $80 million more than the previous year.(Jul 21, 2015 10:18 AM)