The gambling industry in Canada is governed by various laws to ensure safety, entertainment, and smooth flow of everything and everyone involved. Each Canadian province has a unique way at how it views gambling, and gambling laws differ from one province to another. In this article we we will demystify online and offline gambling laws in Canada.
We will cover the history of gambling laws in Canada, gambling regulatory bodies across the country, and all information regarding gambling regulation from province to province. Players in Ontario can only play at casinos licensed by iGaming Ontario.
The History of Gambling in Canada
The history of gambling in Canada is rich. It dates back to when it was primitive before John Abbot/Cabot introduced card playing in 1497. Gambling remained unregulated until 1892's Criminal Code that illegalized gambling.
In 1910, the law was amended, allowing pari-mutuel betting and several casino games. The money collected from these wagering channels was used for charities. Lottery money was used to fund specific projects. For example, the locals held a lottery event in 1974 to collect money for an Olympic event that year.
In 1970, the Criminal Code was updated, delegating powers to various Canadian provinces to control gambling.
With each province having the ability to enact its unique gambling laws, federal gambling was not illegal. Instead, each region could manage gambling activities, leading to the first establishment of a gambling platform in Winnipeg in 1989. More venues opened up in Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan.
In 1999, the acts in the Criminal Code banning gambling were suspended. The local government assumed all liberty to legalize all forms of gambling.
Although regulatory rules look different, each jurisdiction upholds several principles, including:
Regulators and Gaming Authorities
With all the changes allowing each province to control gambling in its jurisdiction, there came a need to have regulators. Each regulatory body needs to decide the type of gambling that is acceptable locally.
It is important to note that these regulatory bodies do more than offer gaming licenses. Instead, they work with gaming providers registered with the local regulatory agency to provide gaming services. The work of the regulators and gaming authorities is to ensure these game providers are providing safe and fair gaming. They also oversee gaming facilities, types of games provided, and the location of a gambling platform.
Another responsibility is to disburse collected revenue into government funds. For example, they decide what percentage of income goes to the education system, health care system, or any other government-funded project. Here are the gaming commissions and the aspect in the gambling industry they control:
Gambling Laws differences in Canadian Provinces
The nation of Canada has ten self-governing provinces. These include Nova Scotia, Ontario, British Colombia, Quebec, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. In this section, we will look at gambling laws in each province to see the differences.
Gambling in Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is the second-smallest province in Canada. Yet, 87% of adults play a game of chance at least once a year. Atlantic Lottery Corporation uses Pro-Line to support sports betting. However, a bettor has to bet on at least two athletes or games in Parlay form. There are two government-owned land-based casinos. Video and ticket lotteries such as bingo are also legal. Another form of legal gambling in Nova Scotia is horse racing. A person must be 19 or older to participate in any form of gambling. Also, there is no law restricting residents from playing online casinos overseas.
Gambling in Ontario
In April 2022, Ontario became the first province in Canada to become a regulated industry for online gambling. Now the region is regulated, players in Ontario have a growing choice of safe and reliable online casinos to choose from. We can expect Ontario to become a major player in the casino and sports betting industry in the years to come.
Land-based casinos are also thriving in Ontario, and 90% of residents in Ontario live at the most one-hour drive to a land-based gambling facility. Thus, it's understandable why over half of the population have played a game of chance at least once a year. There are over 25 land-based casinos, some that are privately owned while others belong to the government. These are available to people over 19+ years.
There is also a provision of lottery, bingo, and eBingo regulated by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. Other forms of gambling legalized in Ontario include Quarter horse, Standardbred, and thoroughbred horse racing bets.
Gambling in British Colombia
Sports betting, horse race wagering, lotteries, charitable gaming such as poker, bingo, and raffles, and online casinos are legal in British Colombia. The province has a British Columbia Lottery Corporation-owned online casino called PlayNow that offers casino games, poker, bingo, and sports betting to players above 19 years.
Gambling in Quebec
Gambling in Quebec first became legal in 1970. The province has legalized all forms of gambling lottery, charitable events, video lottery, horse racing, and sports betting. The details about sports betting in Quebec are different from other provinces in several ways. First, players can only bet through a game called Mise-O-Jeu. Secondly, they have to pick between two games and eight for each wager, and all picked teams must-win for a bettor to win.
The province has one government-owned online casino called espacejeux. The jurisdiction plans to block offshore online gambling platform offering their services to residents in Quebec without Loto Quebec's authorization. The legal gambling age is 18 years.
Gambling in New Brunswick
New Brunswick was the first province to run a video lottery in Canada in 1990. Other forms of gambling offered in the region include parlay-style sports betting, horse racing, and charitable gaming, which is available to anyone above 19 years.
Gambling in Manitoba
Before 2014, Manitoba Gaming Control Commission and Manitoba Liquor Control Commission operated as separate entities. In 2014, the two became one entity under the Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba to oversee gambling and anything regarding liquor joints. Manitoba has all forms of gambling, including one online casino, PlayNow Manitoba, sports betting capped at a maximum stake of $250 per day, lottery, and video lottery. The legal gambling age is set at 18 years.
Gambling in Prince Edward Island
Online gambling is unregulated in PEI. This means anyone in the province can play at a casino or sportsbook outside PEI. There is one racino offering both horse race wagering and casino games. Video lottery and sports betting through Pro-Line services are also available. As long as you are 19 or older, you can play casino games and other forms of gambling.
Gambling in Newfoundland and Labrador
Land-based casinos are banned in Newfoundland. Because of this, players turn to online gambling on sites based offshores, willing to accept players from this province. Players can bet on parlay sports, starting with a minimum of $2 and a maximum of $250 per day. Other legalized gambling include horse racing at Entertainment Centre and St. John's Racing, video lottery, bingo, and raffles. Players above 19 years are allowed to bet on available forms of gambling.
Gambling in Saskatchewan
A report by Statistics Canada shows people in Saskatchewan spend more per household on gambling than any other province. The province has legalized charitable gambling such as raffles and bingo, lottery, horse racing, and sports betting. The only sports one can bet on include basketball, soccer, football, hockey, and baseball for as little as $2 and a maximum of $100. Also, you must be 19 years or older to participate in gambling.
Gambling in Alberta
Alberta sources 4% of its yearly budget from gambling revenue. There are over 25 land-based casinos, most running charitable gaming. In regards to sports betting, players are allowed to bet on at least two games and as many as possible. However, the stake amount is capped at $250 per day. Lottery and video lotteries are also available. However, retailers offering video lottery are limited to having only ten machines, while established gaming facilities can have between 15 and 30 machines. Online gaming is also available without any restriction.
The differences in gambling laws in various provinces are almost unnoticeable. If any, it's about capping on sports stake amount, gambling regulator, and the number of gaming machines a retailer can have. Anyone above 18 years can gamble in Alberta.
Gambling legislation also varies from one country to another. One form of gambling can be a recreational activity in one country and an illegal in another. We take a look at gambling regulations in other countries and compare them to Canada’s. Follow the link below to read more.
Online Gambling Laws
The legality of online gambling laws in Canada is an issue that still falls in a grey area. While most other countries across the world are designing laws focusing on online gambling, Canada is yet to do that. That does not mean that online gambling in Canada is illegal. In fact, at least four provinces have each an online casino. Yet, this is not enough. Residents still prefer to play at online casinos based elsewhere. It is not illegal to play at an online casino licensed in another country. But, it is illegal for a person to launch and operate an online gambling platform in Canada.
Yet, Kahnawake Gaming Commission is responsible for licensing and regulating licensing activities in the territory of Kahnawake. The commission has licensed over 260 online casinos and sportsbooks. The commission has licensed Bodog, the leading brand offering online casinos and sportsbooks. This is an example that online gambling laws are not clear. Here is why. While the commission is responsible for regulating and licensing gambling in a specific territory, it has licensed online platforms accessible across the country and beyond.
Online betting on sports is also legal in Canada. But, betting is available in parlay style. Because of this, Canadian seek other online gambling platforms to make straight bets. Moreover, bookies based outside Canada have more sports for Canadians to bet on, contrary to the few markets available on Canadian sites.
Several provinces also have online casinos. These are geo-fenced which means Canadians from other regions can't access the platform. The regions with online casinos include Alberta, British Colombia, Manitoba, and New Brunswick.
At our Online Gambling page, we list all our recommended gambling sites fully licensed and regulated - legal for all Canadians to play at. Learn more and read our detailed reviews over there.
What Is Considered Illegal Gambling?
The statute governing gambling activities in Canada is the federal Criminal Code. Going into the specifics, Section 201 to 206 indicates that all forms of gambling, lotteries and betting is illegal throughout Canada. The only exception is section 204, where pari-mutuel betting on horse racing is not illegal. This was the original prohibitory gambling statute. It has been amended several times, allowing various forms of gambling. However, these law updates have some restrictions.
Illegal gambling can be defined as wagering on unauthorized games or unlicensed platforms. If the state prohibits players from betting on basketball, betting on the sport becomes unlawful. Usually, the law will state which forms of gambling are allowed, when, and where. So, if a specific form of gambling is legal, but you bet on it in an unauthorized place, then you are gambling illegally.
Canada has had several illegal gambling problems. Toronto seems to be on the front line with unlawful gambling. In January 2016, Toronto police raided Italian cafes and social clubs. During the raid, the police discovered 74 illegal gambling machines and $200,000 in cash. The police were investigating an organized crime when they came across the information on illegal gambling. Fifteen people were arrested.
In October of the previous year, another 30 people were charged with illegal gambling. The investigation uncovered 33 illegal casinos and house gambling in East End Toronto. These gaming sites offered table games. Yet, these facilities did not look anything like casinos. But, they were hidden in plain sight with lounges, furnishing, massage rooms, and bars.
There have been similar investigations and arrests in other regions, including Calgary, victory BC, Winnipeg, and Montreal.
The Future of Online Gambling in Canada
From a legal perspective, Canada has done little to improve online gambling. Mobile gambling has a global market value of $121.1 billion in 2021. Every country wants to take advantage of this, but Canada is far from it. However, several leaders have initiated the change of the Canada's Criminal Code that would significantly move online gambling aspect from grey area to a positive direction. But, bills are quickly voted down, dimming any light.
Yet, gambling is a widely preferred form of entertainment. Gambling on land-based gaming platforms is no longer popular, as online platforms are proving to be more advantageous. For starters, you can log in to your player account any time and play contrary to land-based platforms, which work on schedule.
Also, online platforms have more games than one can ever play in their lifetime. This extensive selection of games attracts millennials and younger generations to online platforms. This means more players are using online platforms based in other countries. Ultimately, more revenue is leaving Canada to neighboring states.
It is up to the country to legalize online gambling and license more gambling platforms to prevent revenue from leaving the country. As younger lawmakers replace the previous generations, it is possible they will push for the complete legalization of gambling. Canada may follow its neighboring country, the USA, which has had a stormy ride towards online gambling.
According to the Canadian Gaming Association, Canadians wager about $4 billion yearly on offshore online betting sites. This is an amount that could hugely contribute to Canada's economy. This is enough to convince the Canadian government to look into online gambling in the near future.
Important Laws and Regulations
Canada has a rich history of gambling and gambling laws. In this line, several gambling laws will be the point of reference today and in the future. These include:
Criminal Code 201 – this code indicates that no one should keep or operate gambling properties; otherwise, they will be found guilty and charged with up to 2 years in prison. The code also indicates that it would charge anyone found in an illegal gambling property, or protects it, or leases it, or allows others to use his property for unlawful gambling can be charged too.
Criminal Code 202 – CC202 denounces illegal bookmakers, betting, and poll selling. Anyone caught accepting a bet, placing a bet, or selling a pool bet is subject to legal charges and might face two years imprisonment.
Criminal Code 206 – CC206 outlines punishments for anyone who defrauds the lottery system or manipulates the games of chance. The code is a lengthy outline of various lottery manipulation examples and describes them as illegal.
Criminal Code 209 – CC209 states outline punishment of up to two years for those found cheating or intending to defraud another person or gambling service.
Bill C290 – Bill C290 is the most recent bill close to making changes to gambling laws. The bill intended to amend the Criminal Code, specifically about betting on sports. The bill was rejected in the House of Commons. Had the bill passed, Canadians would bet on just one game, event or match. This means the loss or win outcome would be based on the individual game outcome. Today, Canadians have to bet on sports on a parlay basis. A parlay bet is a wager on multiple matches, events, or athletes.
For example, look at the EURO 2020 happening between June 11 and July 11, 2021. Suppose any Canadian sportsbook is offering bet markets for this event. To win your bet, all the countries you choose as the winners must win for your stake to payout. So, if you bet on England, German, Spain, and Portugal to win their respective matches, all of them must win for your stake to win. If any of this country did not win the said match and all others won, you can't get paid your stake wins.
First Nations Gaming Act – this is a section of legislation enacted by the first nations government of Saskatchewan. The act outlines how the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Commission will develop the economy in a definite manner.
How To Get a Gambling License in Canada
Gambling is a provincial Crown monopoly in Canada, as described by Section 207 of the Code. This means no entity, person, or business can legally offer gambling services in Canada. Of course, there are those exceptions, such as running local fairs and charities.
However, any company can approach a provincial government seeking to provide gambling services to residents in that province. If the government approves the proposed plan from the said company, it is responsible by law to conduct and manage the proposed gambling platform. In this case, the proponent/company offering, becomes the operator under contract with the provincial government.
So, whether you want to supply goods that will be used in a gambling facility or services or become a gambling operator, you must seek a license from the responsible government.
Anybody is eligible to acquire these licenses without looking at the residency requirement. But, the applicant must pass a risk assessment. The provincial regulator determines what constitutes integrity and honesty and will award an applicant the license based on the regulator's view on whether they have complied with Canadian laws.
Canadian Banks and Online Gambling
Most countries with clear instructions against online gambling have no banks processing gambling money. With the current laws in Canada, most banks are willing to process gambling money, even to international platforms. In fact, the big five banks in the country process gambling money. Unlike the USA, which has laws such as the Wire Act and Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act Law of 2006 which outline how gambling transactions should be handled, Canada has none.
Thus, money transactions to online gambling platforms are possible. Players can transact safely without fearing that the government might take action. So, here are the banks that allow online gambling transactions:
These banks reserve the right to process your money or not. To avoid this possibility, you can use instant banking methods such as Neteller, Skrill, Interac, ecoPayz, InstaDebit, iDebit, Vanilla Prepaid, Paysafecard, Revolut, Flexepin, Astropay, and Neosurf. The best procedure for funding your account is to transfer money from your main account to one of these instant banking methods as you are sure the transaction will go through. Then, you can move your money from the instant bank to your casino or sportsbook player account. Learn about our recommended payment methods at online casinos.
Note: Canadian banks with branches in the USA cannot processing gambling transactions as they have to comply with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act Law (UIGEA) of 2006.
Do I Need To Pay Taxes on My Online Winnings?
The Canadian government lacks control direct control over players gambling on international platforms. Thus, you are not obligated to pay taxes from your online winnings. Also, if you are betting for leisure, you are not obliged to pay taxes. However, if you gamble professionally and on gambling platforms in Canada, then you must pay taxes.
Gambling has existed since the beginning of the human race. It has evolved as the human race evolves. With technology predicted to grow, so will gambling. Yet, Canada seems to take a back seat as other countries move to create comprehensive offline and online gambling laws.
The countries legalizing online gambling stand to benefit from revenue taxes. Those that don't stand to lose revenue to neighboring countries. Why? Despite putting measures limiting gambling in their countries, technology makes it possible to access international gambling platforms. There are even financial bodies processing gambling money solely. Thus, people will still access gambling and their wins even with strict laws in their countries.
Yet, it is not over yet for Canada as it has room to define gambling regulations that would benefit the country. Meanwhile, Canadians can play in gambling platforms in their respective provinces or access extensive online gambling forms.