B.C. residents will be able to play casino-style games and bet nearly $10,000 a week starting in March 2010. ((B.C. Lottery Corp.))

The B.C. Lottery Corp. is defending its decision to introduce casino games online that could generate up to $100 million a year in revenue by 2014.

Games like blackjack, roulette and poker will be available by next March on the corporation's PlayNow website, according to a release issued Thursday.

The corporation wants to tap into the estimated $87 million that British Columbians already spend on unregulated offshore gaming websites.

"Rather than it all going offshore to places like Antigua, there's an opportunity to keep it here in British Columbia," corporation CEO Michael Graydon told CBC News.

The news comes on the heels of a controversial Aug. 17 announcement that the lottery corporation plans to raise the weekly limit on its PlayNow website from $120 to nearly $10,000.

B.C. NDP critic Shane Simpson said the decision to increase online gambling limits is "unacceptable."

"This has been done with no consultation, as I can see, with people who are concerned about problem gambling," said Simpson.

Graydon said there are provisions to prevent problem gamblers from losing too much money, such as a 24-hour cooling-off period before they can bet higher limits.

Unprecedented in North America

B.C.'s plan to introduce the new games online is unprecedented in North America, according to one gambling expert, who noted the U.S. government has outlawed casino-style gambling on the internet.

"It's not new, but in terms of being legal and authorized by a government in North America it will be brand new," Bill Thompson, a professor of public administration at the University of Nevada, told CBC News.

Thompson said it's a good revenue generator for governments but ultimately takes away from the poor and middle-class people who are attracted to the convenience of a website.