Gambling laws in Canada have never been clear on online gambling, leaving the industry in a grey area. Canadians can easily purchase lottery tickets online, as the industry is regulated by provinces. In 2018, the gambling laws for Canadian residents can be summed up below. Canadian law is clear that it is illegal to conduct online gambling operation within the country’s borders (with the exception of the Kahnawake Gaming Commission), no concise laws prohibit or allow players to wager at Canada’s best online casinos based in other countries. Though it seems that no Canadian citizen has ever been charged for playing at an online casino not based in Canada.
All of the online casinos featured on Canadian Casinos allow players from Canada to wager with and win real money. Most allow for wagers in Canadian Dollars as well.
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Gambling Laws – A Brief History of Gambling in Canada
For most of its history, Canada has been staunchly anti-gambling. The Canadian Criminal Code, enacted in 1892, banned nearly all forms of gambling. The ban didn’t last too long, though. An amendment made in 1910 allowed pari-mutuel horse betting. Pari-mutuel betting means that winners divide the losers’ stake between them, the track, the horsemen, and the state.
Things took a turn for the better in 1969 when the Criminal Code was altered to allow provinces and territories to use regulated lotteries to raise funds for so-called ‘worthwhile causes’. One notable benefactor was the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics.
In 1980, another amendment was made. The amendment allowed for computer-based gambling machines like electronic slots and Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) to be installed at casinos.
Today much has changed. Ticket lotteries, horse racing, charitable gaming such as bingo, and some online gambling is regulated by provinces and territories. They bring in much-needed revenue that helps run the country.
Gaming Authorities in Canada
Gaming authorities exist in every country. They ensure that all gaming is fair, and is accordance with the law. In Canada, gambling falls under provincial jurisdiction. This means that each province determines its own gaming laws. Some provinces allow for nearly every form of gambling, while some allow none at all. Horse racing is excluded. It is regulated by the Canadian Parimutuel Agency. The internet is not limited to provinces, hence the grey area.
The Kahnawake Gaming Commission
The Kahnawake Gaming Commission is a gaming authority based in an Indian reserve near Montreal. Kahnawake is recognised as a sovereign nation and is not governed by Canadian law. The Kahnawake Gaming Authority recognised the opportunities online gaming provides in the late 1990s.
Since then, it has become host to many online gaming operators who allow players from Canada and the world to play online casino games for real money. The commission regulates and issues licenses to online casinos, as well as its three own land-based poker rooms in Kahnawake.
Each operator needs to meet a strict set of criteria before they are issued with a license by the Kahnawake commission.
Gambling Laws – eCOGRA
eCOGRA is an independent body that aims to protect online casino players through self-regulation in the online casino industry. eCOGRA was established in 2003 with several key policy objectives:
The protection of vulnerable customers
This means that a casino should ensure that they have relevant details of gambling addiction helplines readily available to customers.
The prevention of underage gambling
It is crucial to prevent underage players from illegally wagering money. That is why online casinos should have stringent checks in place to prevent illegal gambling. If not, both the casino and the player can face legal consequences if the necessary steps aren’t taken.
Ensuring fair gaming through the use of Random Number Generators (RNGs)
A Random Number Generator (RNG) is the industry standard for determining the outcome of any wager. An RNG ensures that all play is fair and that neither casino nor the player knows the outcome of a wager beforehand.
The protection of players’ privacy and information amongst many other objectives
An online casino should use 128-bit SSL encryption to prevent players’ personal details from being stolen. A casino that doesn’t use encryption won’t get eCOGRA’s stamp of approval.
Casinos that comply with all of eCOGRA’s objectives will get the ‘eCOGRA Stamp of Approval’. Players should always look out for the stamp on an online casino before they sign up.
Gambling Laws – Registering at an Online Canadian Casino
The best online casinos require players to provide proof of identity when registering a profile. An online casino will usually require a player to submit copies of proof of identity (eg. A driver’s licence) and proof of address (eg. A utility bill).
If a casino does allow for wagers to be made without the proof of identity, they won’t allow for any withdrawals without it. Players should ideally always have the documents with them while playing at an online casino.
Gambling Laws – Sports Betting
Unlike in the United States, sports betting is allowed under Canadian Law. The Canadian Criminal Code allows for parlay bets on three matches or more. There are organizations who are trying to have the restriction removed, and to allow Canadian gamblers to wager on one sporting event at a time.
The Future of Gambling Laws in Canada
The need for an all-encompassing and clear law around online gambling in Canada is key. More and more countries see the value of online gambling and the benefits of regulating it, and Canada is no exception. With the advent of online lottery tickets, it seems like only a matter of time before all forms of online gambling is permitted. This is good news for Canadian players.
A regulated online gambling industry means more choice, fewer instances of fraud, and better bonuses for players as casinos look to compete against each other.
Gambling Laws FAQs in Canada
*We at Canadian Casinos aren’t lawyers. We have gone to great lengths to ensure that all the information on this page is factual and correct, but it should not be inferred as legal advice. This page is our interpretation of gambling law in Canada.