Gambling Laws and Regulation in Canada

Gambling has been a popular activity in Canada for hundreds of years, and on a local level, it’s strictly regulated by each and every province. But there’s one inevitable phenomenon that's been changing the gambling landscape recently – the rise of online gambling sites.

The regulations on online gambling in Canada don’t seem to be entirely clear-cut.

CanadaCasino has set out to examine the situation to be able to give readers an overview of the current online gambling market in CA.

The Legalization of Gambling in Canada

Prior to the 1970s, Gambling in Canada was completely illegal on the grounds of immorality.

The Criminal Code was then amended in 1969 to give provinces the option to run public lotteries as a way of funding various events, such as the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

In 1985, provinces were given more rights to authorize various forms of gambling, and over the years, they started to organize lotteries and authorize slot machines.

Bingo was made legal in 1900, followed by betting on horse racing, which was legalized in 1910.

This gradual legalization of various forms of gambling eventually led to a number of land-based casinos opening their doors and also gave rise to numerous sports betting shops.

Gambling has since flourished particularly in Ontario and Alberta – the former currently has the largest number of gambling establishments in the country, including the renowned Caesars Windsor Casino, whose renovation and rebranding cost almost half a billion dollars.

Although some casinos are owned by private entities, the Canadian government still owns several land-based casinos.

Online Gambling Today

When it comes to online gambling, so far it is illegal for a company to run a gambling site or mobile casino unless it has the approval of the government.

However, the Canadian Government does not grant companies a license to operate online gambling sites (unless the operator is located in Kahnawake).

Current legislation has been at the heart of various controversies over the last few years. Where online gambling is concerned there are several grey areas which question gambling legality in Canada.

However, there is no law governing overseas companies that are targeting Canadian players, and this opens up several opportunities – Canadian players can still find a legal and safe online casino that’s located elsewhere and gamble with peace of mind!

However, since provinces were granted the power to make certain decisions, every province can legalize specific types of gambling that can be “operated on or through a computer.”

This makes it sound that online gambling is regulated by each individual province.

In fact, some of the provinces do operate their own online casinos and Canadians can also buy lottery tickets online.

But since it stands to each and every province to grant licenses, regulations might defer from region to region.

Let’s take a look at each individual province and its take on Canadian Online Gambling laws.

Quebec – Loto-Québec

The Quebec provincial government has tried on several occasions to state that online gambling with offshore casinos is illegal, however, the actual law is ambiguous. 

Loto-Quebec is in charge of issuing licenses and regulating gaming providers in Quebec, including their own online casino Espacejeux.com

Charging an offshore operator with no physical presence in the region of illegal activity falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government, however, the current Criminal Code will have to be amended to allow for such a case to be pursued. 

The situation is rather hazy, but there seems to be no law to prohibit Canadian players from playing at an international online casino.

Espacejeux.com

The gambling industry in Quebec has been monopolized by Loto-Quebec’s online gambling site Espacejeux.com for a number of years. 

The online gambling site provides the local residents of Quebec with a variety of gambling games like lottery tickets, sports betting, casino games that include slots, table games and even a Live Casino, bingo and poker. 

This site also provides a list of land-based casinos owned by Loto-Quebec. 

For residents of Quebec it offers everything they might need in terms of gambling opportunities, however, when compared with offshore online casinos, variety is rather limited.

The Kahnawake Gaming Commission

Based on the Indian reserve within the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake in Quebec, The Kahnawake Gaming Commission is a regulatory body that monitors the compliance of legislation within the territory.

It is responsible for granting licenses to online poker, casino, and sportsbook providers who cater to the rest of Canada.

Since Kahnawake is deemed to be a sovereign nation, casinos in this territory are not subject to Canadian laws, but they are still required to meet certain criteria in order to be granted a license from the Kahnawake Gaming Commission.

Check out a few Canadian casinos we recommend to players that each hold a license from the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, making them some of the safest sites to play on in the country!

  1. Ruby Fortune
  2. Jackpot City
  3. Spin Casino
  4. Quatro Casino

Ontario – Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation

2019 marked the beginning of change in the Ontario Gambling laws with the introduction of a new blueprint that is set to regulate gambling with offshore companies and end the monopoly currently held by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. 

Online gambling is by no means illegal, especially as the OLG runs its own online gambling site, Playolg.com.

What is OLG?

Launched in 2015 and regulated by the Ontario Lottery and Gambling Corporation, OLG is available in both English and French and features games by the well-established providers IGT, Bally Technologies and Boss Media

Residents of Ontario can play various online casino games as well as purchase lottery tickets and check lottery numbers, either from their desktop computer or from their hand-held devices. 

First-time players can also benefit from an interesting welcome package at OLG and a customer support team is available 24/7 via live chat, phone and email. 

With regards to security, all games are tested by the Ontario Lottery and Gambling corporation’s technicians for fairness, and players’ personal details and payment methods are protected. 

Although OLG does not offer the vast selection of games one finds at an offshore online casino, it has everything to make it competitive.  

In fact, it is incredibly popular with the locals and has been quite successful. 

British Columbia –British Columbia Lottery Corporation

Gambling in British Columbia is regulated by the British Columbia Lottery Corp. 

In 1986, it made history by offering the first online lottery game. Ever since then, they’ve expanded with the launch of their own online casino Playnow.com in 2004. 

According to the British Colombia Gaming Control Act, the British Columbia Lottery Corp, has the responsibility to regulate all gambling including online, however, it does not specify if international online casinos fall under this category. 

Instead another part of the ACT states that with the government’s approval, British Colombia could start licensing offshore operators.

Playnow.com

Playnow.com offers a variety of gambling activities to its players, from lottery, keno, slot games, table games, a Live Casino, sports betting and bingo. 

This online casino is open to both the residents of British Columbia and the residents of Manitoba. 

Although it offers all types of gambling activities, just like OLG and Espacejeux.com, variety is limited when compared to an offshore casino. 

Manitoba – The Manitoba Gambling Laws

Regulated by the Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba, this province entered into an agreement with British Colombia in 2012 to allow its residents to play at the British Colombia online casino: Playnow.com. 

With regards to offshore online casinos, there is no law that regulates or bans these casino sites.

Saskatchewan – Saskatchewan Gambling Laws 

Saskatchewan falls in that ‘grey area’ just like the rest of Canada. Gambling laws in Saskatchewan relate to providers that are located in Saskatchewan and the provincial government has no power to pursue offshore casinos. 

On the other hand, only by changing constitutional law can the Federal Government take action.

With the current legislation, online gambling is not exactly legal, but it is not illegal either.

Alberta – Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis

Regulated by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC), the province was considering iGaming regulation back in 2015 to diversify revenue streams, but nothing came of it. 

Finally in 2020, the commission launched its own site PlayAlberta.ca

Under current legislation, the province cannot issue any license for online gambling companies who wish to open an office within Alberta. 

Current regulation exists only for already licensed operators within the province, thus offshore casinos are not subject to Alberta’s laws. 

And since the constitutional law is not clear about gambling with international companies, playing with an online casino is neither legal nor illegal. 

PlayAlberta.ca

Launched by the Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis Commission, in October of 2020, it is the newest online casino managed by a provincial government.

The platform offers numerous casino games, amongst which online slots, a handful of virtual table games, live tables by Evolution Gaming, instant win games and lotteries.

The Atlantic Provinces

The Atlantic Provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador and Prince Edward Island, are regulated by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation. 

The ALC runs its own online gambling website, however gambling activities are restricted to lottery draw tickets, instant win tickets, keno and bingo games, and Proline wagering. 

Although at present the Atlantic Lottery Corporation does not run any online casinos, there have been talks of opening an online casino on the basis that Canadians are spending a lot of money abroad when they play at offshore online casinos. 

Opening their own local casino would mean that profits would remain in the region to support the local community. 

The ALC has been pushing for expansion and the launch of a fully-serviced online casino for a number of years, knowing that it cannot compete with offshore casinos, especially as there is no law to prohibit Canadians from participating in online gambling.

The Canadian Territories

Apart from the 10 provinces we’ve mentioned in this article, Canada is also made up of the 3 territories of Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest territories. 

These territories have a much smaller population and are managed by the Federal Government.

This part of Canada is often known simply as the ‘The North’ and because of its small population, gambling is not so widespread as in the provinces.

The Territory of Yukon

The Yukon territory boasts the oldest casino in all of Canada, opened in 1971 in Dawson City. 

The Yukon government does not allow for the sale of lottery tickets online, but these must always be sold through a licensed retailer. 

Furthermore, the current provincial law only deems illegal gambling premises without a license operating on Yukon soil.

This leaves Yukon in exactly the same situation as other provinces: Gambling with international casinos is neither legal or illegal.

The territory of Nunavut

The territory of Nunavut is perhaps one of the most remote in all of Canada. It might be the largest territory of this country, however it has the smallest population. 

This is not surprising given the harsh weather conditions and remoteness of the location. 

Here, casinos are non-existent, and although some lottery and Pro-line are available, bingo and table games can only be carried out if a three-day license is obtained. 

With technology more easily accessible than land-based casinos, online gambling with offshore casinos is the best option, and like the rest of Canada, Nunavut’s gambling laws only regulate already existing venues on Canadian soil.

Northwest Territories

Just like Nunavut, this territory is remote and characterized by a harsh climate. 

The locals have very few options in terms of entertainment and just like Nunavut, casinos are non-existent, and any other forms of gambling must have a three-day license. 

NWT’s Legislative Assembly, which is in charge of gambling regulation within the region, does not regulate online gambling. 

This leaves the Northwest Territories just where all the other regions are: the law does not cater for online gambling yet, thus it cannot be deemed illegal.

Gambling with an Offshore Casino

While it is technically illegal for Canadian companies to offer online gambling to Canadians, this law does not apply to companies that are located overseas.

Therefore, at the moment, there are plenty of online casinos and online sports betting sites that cater to Canadian players who are backed up by years of experience and licensed by strict authorities in other gaming jurisdictions.

In future, it may be that Canada will change its legislation and require online casinos overseas to acquire a license in order to cater to Canadians.

This has been the case in several European countries as well as in the US.

But so far, no such law is foreseen for the immediate future, and this makes the choice of online casinos for Canadian players a huge one!

As things stand at the moment, the government cannot legally pursue an offshore casino without a physical presence in Canada and Canadian players cannot be charged with illegal gambling either. This also means that Canadian players don’t have any protection either. 

Things are rather complicated at the moment, however, one thing that stands out is that Canadians are already playing at international casinos and can continue to do so without any legal repercussions. 

As long as they choose a regulated casino with an offshore gambling jurisdiction like the UK Gambling Commission, the Malta Gaming Authority and other EEA countries, they can rest assured that that casino will be subjected to strict regulation in terms of fairness, timely payouts and player protection, as well as responsible gambling. 

On the other side of the spectrum, international online casinos are taking advantage of the current situation, and are opening their doors to Canadian players by providing hundreds of games and including Canadians in their promotions. 

Is it Safe to Gamble with Offshore Companies?

Players have nothing to worry about if they play with an online casino that’s based offshore, as long as the casino is owned by a company that is licensed by a reliable authority like the UK Gambling Commission and the Malta Gaming Authority.

Most of these online casinos are located in gambling jurisdictions like Malta, Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, and other EEA countries and are subject to strict regulations related to player safety and responsible gambling.

This means that players can expect fair and timely payouts, and that their personal and financial details will be protected using advanced technology.

Many online casinos licensed by the above-mentioned bodies allow Canadian players to join them, and most of them have been operating successfully in other markets for years.

There may be a few restrictions when it comes to payment methods that may be used by Canadian players.

However, other than that, Canadians can play a huge variety of games and take advantage of massive bonuses and casino promotions running across these gambling sites.  

If you have any doubts regarding such casinos’ reliability, it’s easy to find reviews from real players.

Casino reviews will give you a good indication of how fast withdrawals are, how efficient the customer service team is, as well as information about casino bonuses, promotions, and loyalty programs.

Here at Canadacasino.ca, we also write our own casino reviews based on criteria that we consider essential for casinos to meet – namely fair bonuses, timely payouts, and a license from a regulatory body located in the above-mentioned jurisdictions.

Responsible Gambling and Online Casinos in Canada

One concept that online casinos need to observe if they are to be granted a license by a reliable gaming authority is that known as responsible gambling.

This is an umbrella term for various measures that promote player protection and protect vulnerable gamblers from excessive gambling behaviour.

Online casinos that adhere to responsible gambling standards have measures in place to block gamblers that may be spending too much.

The best ones also have a number of features or a separate platform that players can make use of to limit their gambling, such as the setting of betting limits and self-exclusion facilities.

Other responsible gambling measures involve the protection of under-age players, the detection of fraudulent activities, fair gaming, and ethical marketing – marketing that is unambiguous and that doesn’t make false promises.

These measures are getting increasingly stricter in various markets, and here at CanadaCasino, we strive to promote those gambling sites that are fully committed towards responsible gambling.

Bitcoin gambling from Canada

Some say that Bitcoin gambling is the future, others express scepticism over this issue.

The fact is, Bitcoin gambling is indeed possible at a few casinos, as they allow you to deposit and withdraw in Bitcoins and enjoy the control and anonymity that comes with this payment method.

That said, the choice of Bitcoin casinos is not massive at the moment, mainly due to issues related to player safety and fraud.

Who knows, as cryptocurrencies become more and more popular, there are bound to be changes and Bitcoin gambling may become more commonplace.

And in the meantime, every time we come across a Bitcoin casino that’s safe and legal, we’ll be the first to announce it to our readers!

If you want to get started playing with Bitcoin, we recommend checking out PM.IO Casino.

Online Gambling Canada – The Present and Future

Gambling laws in Canada
Source: https://iclg.com/practice-areas/gambling-laws-and-regulations/canada

It seems that the laws with regard to online gambling offered by offshore providers are not clear at the moment, and operators are taking advantage of this by continuing to adapt their bonuses and offers to Canadian players.

This opens up plenty of opportunities for the latter, as they can enjoy a huge collection of online games and benefit from regular promotions and freebies.

It’s obvious, that Canadian gambling laws are in need of urgent amendments!

Online casinos are there to stay and if Canada wishes to remain competitive in this ever-growing business, they have to update their legislation. 

Ontario has already taken the first steps towards abolishing the monopoly on online gambling, while the Atlantic Lottery Corporation has been fighting for years to have their own online casino after recognizing the industry potential. 

Although there are no plans to regulate online gambling in the immediate future, it will probably happen sooner rather than later. As more people seek to join online gambling sites, the Canadian government will have no choice but to regulate online casinos that wish to offer their services to Canadian clients.

Of course, things are likely to change in future, and CanadaCasino.ca will do its utmost to inform its visitors about any amendments, as part of our effort to promote regulated and secure forms of gambling online.

Frequently asked questions

Most casinos are owned by the various provincial governments who are in charge of issuing licenses and regulate all kinds of gambling.
Some of the provinces have launched their own online casinos which are managed by the provincial governments. As the law stands at the moment, neither the Federal government nor the provinces can license an offshore online casino.
If you can claim a bonus you can play online casino games for free. You can also play for free if you opt for the demo version that accompanies many games, however, wins are fake and cannot be cashed out.