Gambling In Canada – What Does The Law Say?

It’s an undeniable fact that Canadians love to gamble. State lotteries, racecourses, plush casino resorts in Ontario and BC, and more recently online sites too; opportunities to gamble abound, and official estimates suggest that around three quarters of the adult population do so to some extent.

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Considering its popularity, the exact legality of gambling in this country is often a cause for confusion, especially in the case of Canadian online casinos. In fact, apart from some minor regional variations, the legal status of gambling in Canada is very easy to understand.

Gambling At Land Casinos

We’ve come a long way since the first casino opened in Dawson City, Yukon in 1971. That establishment is still running to this day, but has since been joined by more than a hundred others, scattered across all but one of the provinces. These include some luxury resorts that would rival anything to be found in Las Vegas or Macau.

Citizens are permitted to gamble in establishments in Manitoba, Alberta and Québec at the age of eighteen or over, and nineteen elsewhere in the country. While many of them are privately run, some – including the two big resorts in Niagara Falls – are either partly or wholly government-owned.

Some restrictions had to be brought in to curb money laundering activities, which mainly affect high rollers. Toronto rapper Drake had a run in with the management of the Parq Vancouver in 2018, when he was asked to prove his source of funds. Under the rules introduced in January of that year, all transactions over $10,000 are now subject to such scrutiny.

Gambling At Canadian Online Casinos

The legality of online gambling is slightly more ambiguous. There are two distinct types of online casino sites for Canadians; those run by provincial governments and those that are privately operated. Provincial online casino sites are available to citizens in Québec, Ontario, British Columbia and Manitoba. These constitute the only official sites in the country, but they do not serve citizens in other provinces.

The majority of Canadians who use online casinos do so through a private provider. Since the law prohibits such companies from operating on Canadian soil, most of these are based in European countries and cater to the Canadian market as well as their home jurisdiction. Gambling with one of these casino operators is considered to be completely legal.

The federal government has taken the approach that online gambling is done at a player’s own risk, and left matters of licensing, regulation and compliance up to the overseas operators. Up until now, attempts by provincial administrations to introduce regulations for these private companies have been unsuccessful.

What this means in practice is that no Canadian is breaking the law when they use one of these services, but that they are not protected by the authorities here either. Fortunately, most of the markets in Europe are tightly regulated and overseen by one of several governing bodies that are responsible for issuing licenses and enforcing compliance. These protections also extend to Canadian clients.

Sports Betting In Canada

So, since offshore casino and betting sites are neither legal nor prohibited, Canadian citizens are free to use their services without fear of any legal repercussions. This situation may have had some bearing on the current push to reform sports betting laws in this country.

At present, single-game sports betting is prohibited in Canada. As Canadians are free to use offshore sites, this law has been all but theoretical for some time now. In 2020 it is expected that there will be another push to bring Canada’s sports betting laws in line with reality, and allow betting on individual events.


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