British Columbia is hoping to get some of an estimated $100 million gambled by its residents on offshore websites each year by becoming the first jurisdiction in North America to offer legal, online casino gaming.

The province insisted Thursday the money collected through its online casino will be redirected to services like health care and education.

Critics blasted the plan, calling it irresponsible, while others predicted it won’t have much of an impact on gamblers.

As of Thursday, residents can log on to the B.C. Lottery Corp.’s website and wager on games like blackjack, roulette and craps. Peer-to-peer poker is expected later this year, and money can also be put down on bingo, sports bets and lotteries.

Rich Coleman, the province’s housing and social development minister, told reporters the hard reality is that gambling activity isn’t going anywhere and the Liberal government wants to ensure money gambled in B.C. stays in B.C.

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