Is Online Gambling Legal in Canada?
Just like other citizens worldwide, gambling is one of the most favourite pastimes of Canadian residents. The continuous expansion of the iGaming industry has widened the players’ horizons, granting them more options to pursue their gambling passions.
While some forms of land-based gambling activities have been legalized, a lot of confusion still surrounds the Great White North’s online gambling and betting laws. So, this article will shed some light on this topic and discuss the information most relevant from a Canuck gambler’s point of view.
Gambling Law in Canada
Throughout history, Canadian gambling laws encountered numerous changes. Its 1892 Criminal Code declared most gambling activities unlawful, and it was not until well into the 1900s that this legislation really changed. The gambling industry started rapidly expanding with it, and numerous casinos and racetrack betting outlets gained enormous popularity across the country.
Sports betting was the first game of chance to earn the seal of approval from the government due to its massive popularity among Canadians.
Today, the mentioned Criminal Code deems advertising, conducting gaming activities and gambling illegal unless these are “managed and conducted” by a licensing authority or board. From 1970 each province became officially authorized to regulate, oversee, and license gambling within their own jurisdiction as the Canadian government delegated responsibilities.
Since then, gambling has expanded into the digital world and gained a subcategory — online gambling. By extension, the same laws apply — provincial governments organize and control all games of chance that are operated through a computer.
As a result, there are now plenty of government-legalized betting outlets whose services include online betting, and many provinces have created online gambling sites of their own. For instance, Quebecers have EspaceJeux.com and Ontarians PlayOLG.com, while Manitoba and British Columbia players share PlayNow.com.
Gambling and Betting Laws in Canadian Provinces
Since all provinces manage and monitor gambling activities within their territories, their rules, regulations, and regulatory bodies differ.
For example, one of the things they disagree on is the legal gambling age. You have to be 19 years old and above to gamble and bet in most but not all provinces. In Alberta, Calgary, Manitoba, Montreal, and Quebec, the legal gambling age is 18.
As the dissimilarities are numerous, we’ve compiled a list of regulatory acts that are valid in the individual provinces. Below you’ll find the laws that both land-based and online gambling operators need to agree with in order to conduct business in that area:
- Alberta — The Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act (AGLC)
- British Columbia — Gaming Control Act
- Manitoba — The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Act
- New Brunswick — The Gaming Control Act
- Newfoundland and Labrador — Newfoundland and Labrador Regulation 2002
- Nova Scotia — Gaming Control Act
- Ontario — Gaming Control Act
- Prince Edward Island — Lotteries Commission Act
- Quebec — A number of regulations under the Quebec Alcohol, Racing and Gaming Commission
- Saskatchewan — A number of regulations under the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority
Gambling in the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory
The First Nations reserve called the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory is located in Southern Quebec, near Montreal. Its legal status differs from the above-mentioned provinces in Canada, so the federal laws do not influence gambling regulations there. For that reason, the territory has gambling leeway the rest of the country doesn’t, like its own gaming commission.
Ever since 1999, The Kahnawake Gaming Commission has been in charge of overseeing all gambling activities within this territory. This regulator can issue several types of permits, so many compete to apply for and earn its now world-famous license. Nevertheless, attaining this document is not an easy task — it comes at the cost of cumbersome bureaucracy and this Commission’s rigorous rules. So, not many operators end up succeeding.
Prominent International Regulatory Bodies
Since the interest in online gambling is rising and the government-licensed gambling offer is limited, many new operators want to enter the market. However, without the licence from the government or the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, their business would be deemed illegal. As a result, many companies choose to offer their services to Canadian gamblers from an offshore site.
Because there is currently no law prohibiting gambling and betting outside the country’s borders, more international casinos are also opening their doors to Canadian players. These platforms tend to hold licences from different gambling authorities around the world, the most common being:
- The Government of Curacao — The government of Curacao issues gambling licences for all types of interactive iGaming.
- The Malta Gaming Authority — Also known as the MGA, this regulatory body grants licences to both online gambling sites and land-based casinos.
- The UK Gambling Commission — This regulatory body is known as one of the most strict when it comes to the rules and requirements towards those looking to obtain its gambling licence.
If you are considering playing at one or more of the offshore sites, make sure to check whether and which licence they hold for your own security.
Canadian Banks and Gambling
Regardless of the lack of federal and provincial laws against gambling on online gambling sites, Canuck players might still run into issues when gaming in virtual casinos. The problems in question have to do with payment as some Canadian banks process online gambling transactions.
To avoid running into these kinds of problems, you should always check the rules your bank of choice imposes on their customers. To help you out, we’ve highlighted the financial institutions which you can use to fund this hobby of yours, focusing on the Canadian Big Five:
- Bank of Nova Scotia — Scotiabank allows all gambling transactions to the gambling websites operated by the provincial governments, like the three we mentioned in the previous sections.
- Bank of Montreal — BMO classifies offshore gambling money transfers as “cash-like transactions” and allows processing.
- Toronto-Dominion Bank — The same is true of TD Bank — It treats betting, off-track betting, race track wagers, casino gaming chips, and lottery tickets as “cash-like transactions.”
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), as well as TD Bank (regardless of the mentioned rule), have cardholder agreements with stipulations that warn customers against online gambling transactions. Even though many users have noted that these transactions go through without any problems, the possibility your account may be blocked under this excuse is still there.
To steer clear of these types of complications, many Canadian players use other payment methods as intermediaries between their bank and the gambling websites. These include instant banking, bank wire, e-wallets, prepaid cards, etc.
As you can see, online gambling is legal in Canada. Players can enjoy this hobby by sticking with the official provincial gambling websites or venturing into the vast world of international gambling operators.
Because of the variety they offer, many gamblers end up playing on offshore sites. If you happen to do the same, make sure the site you’re playing on is appropriately licensed and trustworthy. In addition, don’t forget to check whether your bank allows online gambling transactions to properly decide how you’ll finance your online gaming.
Are online casinos legal in Canada?
Yes, they are. No laws are prohibiting Canadians from playing at an online casino.
What is the legal gambling age in Canada?
The age at which Canadians are allowed to gamble depends on the province in which they reside. The legal gambling age is 19 years old and above in most cases. However, a few provinces allow gambling to persons who are 18 years old, as well.
Are casino winnings taxable in Canada?
No, they are not. Since the country deems gambling solely as a form of entertainment and not a way to earn money, you can keep all the money you win.