People in Canada can be let off the hook if the current online gambling framework is confusing to them. There are a lot of moving parts to consider, with changes being frequent in recent times.
While the online gambling sector was a Wild West for many years with offshore platforms running amuck, things are now moving on. Ontario became the first province to launch a regulated market for private online gambling operators. Other jurisdictions are also in the process of following suit.
This guide will take you through everything you need to know about the legality of various online casino Canada operations. This will allow you to figure out where you stand when you want to play online poker, your favourite casino games, or place sports bets from the comfort of your own home.
The Previous Approach to Online Gambling
You won’t find any out-and-out federal online gambling laws. The federal government decided in 1985 that the territories and provinces have to monitor and legislate all of their gambling-related offerings themselves. Each jurisdiction has its own governing body as a result.
As the internet became more mainstream around the turn of the century, many people in the gambling space saw great opportunities to address a whole new market. Online casinos, poker sites, and sportsbooks began to pop up everywhere. These operations typically did not follow any sort of rules or regulations.
The Canadian authorities didn’t really know how to get to grips with these types of offerings, once they were not physically located in the country. That’s why Canadians are so easily able to use black market platforms.
Over the course of a typical 12-month period, the federal government estimated a few years back that these offshore and black market online gambling platforms took in more than CA$14 billion from Canadians. It wasn’t out-and-out illegal for people to use these platforms and the authorities couldn’t really touch these companies.
This meant that huge sums of money were exiting the country and often ended up in the pockets of criminal organizations. Proponents of regulated gambling pointed toward the huge sums that the federal and provincial governments could earn from taxation and licensing fees.
Attempts to Wrestle Back Some Control
The authorities clearly could see how popular online gambling was in the country and they began to look at ways to potentially take back some control. This is why a lot of provinces started to launch their own online gambling platforms. However, these tended to be quite limited and weren’t overly popular.
Single-event sports betting was still illegal and people had access to bigger casino game libraries and poker traffic at offshore platforms. The seemingly futile battle meant that certain provinces began looking at other options.
A Monumental Day for Regulated Gambling in Canada
The catalyst for transforming the legal framework of online gambling in Canada was the decriminalization of single-event sports betting in 2021. This change to federal law meant that people could legally bet on single sporting events, rather than just placing parlays.
It was left up to each jurisdiction to decide for itself if it wanted to regulate sports betting. The reasons why this legislation got passage was to bring the money being spent on illegal gambling sites back into the Canadian economy, as well as provide better protections to gamblers.
Ontario Breaking the Mould
After the ban on single-event sports betting came to an end, Ontario wasted little time in announcing its intention to launch a regulated online gambling market for private operators. Licensees were able to go live in April 2022.
In the debut year of operations, total gaming revenue was CA$1.4 billion, with Ontarians placing about CA$35.6 billion worth of wagers. There were over 1.6 million active accounts during the initial 12 months, with over 40 operators holding licenses.
A Breakdown of Each Provincial Offering
While Ontario was quick off the mark to get up and running with its regulated markets, other jurisdictions weren’t as fast. Most regions still just allow government-run platforms to operate.
Certain governments are considering opening up their online gambling sectors, but this does not look like happening in the immediate future. Here’s a quick breakdown of the situation in each province:
- Ontario: Online sports betting and iGaming regulated market up-and-running
- Quebec: Online sports betting and iGaming only offered by Loto-Quebec
- Nova Scotia: Online sports betting and iGaming only offered by the ALC
- New Brunswick: Online sports betting and iGaming only offered by the ALC
- Manitoba: Online sports betting and iGaming only offered by the BCLC
- British Columbia: Online sports betting and iGaming only offered by the BCLC
- Prince Edward Island: Online sports betting and iGaming only offered by the ALC
- Saskatchewan: Online sports betting and iGaming only offered by the WCLC
- Alberta: Online sports betting and iGaming only offered by the AGLC
- Newfoundland and Labrador: Online sports betting and iGaming only offered by the ALC
The online gambling sector in Canada has come a long way in recent years, but there’s still more work to do as Ontario is the only province with private operators running platforms.
As time goes on, it is likely that the bigger provinces will follow suit, which will provide further competition to people in these regions and likely boost tax revenue.
For now, you will have some form of legal online gambling available to you no matter where in Canada you live. This will include sports betting, lotteries, and casino games.
Canada Online Gambling FAQs
Do Canadians Have to Pay Taxes on Gambling Winnings?
You will not have to pay any taxes on your gambling winnings, once it isn’t your full-time job.
What is the Legal Gambling Age in Canada?
You need to be at least 19 years old in order to legally gamble in the majority of provinces. The exceptions are in Quebec, Manitoba, and Alberta where you only have to be 18 years old. The age limit applies to all types of gambling, including lotteries, land-based casinos, and online gambling.
Is there a federal regulator for online gambling in Canada?
The Canadian Gaming Commission is the trade association for the nation’s gambling sector, but not an out-and-out regulator. It aims to bridge any communication gaps between the public, the gambling sector, the government, and the media.
Is it illegal for Canadians to use offshore online gambling platforms?
There is no mention in the Canadian Criminal Code that makes it illegal for people to access offshore online gambling sites. People have been using these offerings for many years without any legality issues.