Gambling laws in Canada has been at the heart of a number of controversies, especially over the last few years. With online casinos opening their doors to Canadian players, many are left wondering about the legality of online gambling in Canada. This is a grey area under the current Canadian gambling laws, but let’s check out together where this leaves Canadian players.
Following the amendment of the Criminal Code in 1969, each of Canada’s Provinces and Territories took over the individual legalization and regulation of gambling. With these new rights, they’ve since authorized numerous land-based casinos, betting shops, ticket lotteries, horse race betting, video lottery terminals, and charitable gambling forms like Bingo.
When it comes to the Canada online gambling laws, however, the Canadian Government does not grant a license to online casinos, unless the request is done in Kahnawake. Regulated by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, this regulatory body monitors the compliance of current legislation within the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake, while also granting licenses to gambling providers. Since the Indian Reserve of Kahnawake is deemed to be a sovereign nation, Canadian gambling laws don’t apply, however, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission’s requirements need to be observed.
As the Canadian Government does not grant online casino licenses, it stands to each and every province to grant licenses according to their individual regulations. So let’s take a look at each individual province and its take on Canadian Online Gambling laws.
2019 marks 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. For further details about the Ontario Gambling Laws, we advise you to check out our article: ‘Ontario online gambling laws to change’.
Launched in 2015 and regulated by the Ontario Lottery and Gambling Corporation, PlayOLG is an online casino site that 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 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 Play OLG does not offer the vast selection of games one finds at an offshore online casino, it has everything to make it competitive and in fact, it is incredibly popular with the locals and has been quite successful.
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.
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 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.
Gambling in British Colombia is regulated by the British Colombia 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 Colombia 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 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 Colombia and the residents of Manitoba. Although it offers all types of gambling activities, just like Playolg.ca and Espacejeux.com, variety is limited when compared to an offshore casino.
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 regard to offshore online casinos, there is no law that regulates or bans these casino sites.
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.
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. 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.
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 Yukon territory boasts of 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 nor illegal.
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.
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.
It has become obvious by now that Canadian gambling laws are in need of 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.
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.
At this point, the question is when the regulation will change. In the meantime, all we can do is wait, while players and offshore casinos may keep taking advantage of the situation. Canadacasino.ca will try to keep you updated as the situation changes and will keep promoting regulated and safe online casinos for Canadians to enjoy.
The Canadian Government does not issue licenses for online casinos, as this is the responsibility of each individual province or territory. On the other hand, provinces and territories can only license and regulate gambling with a physical presence in Canada. Thus, an international online casino is deemed illegal in Canada, however, according to current laws there is nothing that prohibits Canadians from joining an offshore casino.
When choosing an offshore casino to play with, it is always important to check that it is at least licensed and regulated within another gambling jurisdiction. Online casinos that have obtained a license from countries like the UK, Malta and other EEA countries are subject to very strict monitoring in terms of fair gaming, timely payouts, responsible gambling, underage gambling and fraud prevention.
By scrolling to the bottom of an online casino’s homepage, one can find all the information pertaining to a casino’s license as well as the regulatory body and the gambling jurisdiction that issued the license, together with the company’s registered address.
Some provinces have their own online gambling platforms, which are fully regulated on a provincial level. The most popular ones are Ontario's PlayOlg.ca, Quebec's Espacejeux.com and British Columbia's Playnow.com. These sites are intended for the locals of each province, and most of them run online lotteries, betting and host various online slot machines. The selection, however, is not as vast as the one you'd find at offshore online casinos.
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