Canada Online Gambling Laws You Need to Know


Canada has a robust, growing online gambling industry. The laws of the land permit each province and territory to, within limits, determine what gambling to offer within its borders.

After decades of being anti-gambling, Canada first allowed lotteries in 1969. The lotteries were proposed in part to fund the Montreal Olympic Games. However, along with allowing lotteries, the federal government cracked the door open for more gambling options.

Highlighting that the provinces and territories are in control of gambling regulations once they are allowed federally, by 1971 Manitoba had passed a Lotteries Act. To increase jackpots, in 1974 some of the prairie provinces banded together to form the Western Canada Lottery Corporation.

The first formal casinos began popping up in the 1980s, with temporary casinos in British Columbia as early as 1982. By 1986, the first permanent, legal casino opened in Winnipeg. The Casino at the Centre was eventually converted to a full-scale resort-casino, the Crystal Casino.

Now, the Canadian casino landscape is dominated by casinos in Montreal, Niagara Falls, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Halifax, and Regina as well as other locations. But online gambling laws have failed to keep up with land-based gaming options.

Online poker, like online casinos and online sports betting, is legal in Canada. The federal government does not have any laws prohibiting players from finding their favourite poker room and going all-in.

Casino de Montreal

Casino de Montreal

However, it is illegal to operate an online gaming platform without a governmental license. So, you can play but you cannot just begin accepting wagers.

Canadian online casinos are safe and accept players for real money. Because the federal government has not stepped into the regulatory space, online gambling laws are not subject to provincial regulation.

This means that if, for example, Alberta wanted to run its own online poker rooms, the laws would not allow it. However, there is hope for future development in Canadian gambling laws.

Canada Sports Betting Laws Reformed

Canadian provinces have allowed multi-leg, parlay-style sports betting since the early 1990s. But federal law prohibited them from allowing single-game wagering, which is by far the most popular form of sports betting.

In late 2021, Parliament moved forward with its first major gambling reform in years. Bill C-218 received approval after it was supported by the NHL, MLB, CFL, NBA, Canadian Olympic Committee, and various provincial premiers.

Since Bill C-218 cleared both the House of Commons and Senate in Ottawa, it will be left to each province and territory to determine its own sports betting regulations.

man sportsbetting from mobile phone and computer, man online sports betting, virginia online sportsbetting

Canadians can place sports bets on their phones.

Though it is no guarantee that regulated online sports betting will be available in every location, legal single-game sports wagering makes mobile casino platforms feasible. But there are still already numerous safe online sportsbooks that already allow Canadian players to place a bet.

Why Are Canadian Casinos Owned by the Government?

The federal government allows casinos, but the individual provinces and territories regulate their operations. And for many provinces, owning the casino you regulate seems like an easy way to produce extra funding for government coffers.

Canadian casinos are generally government-owned because it cuts out a middle level that theoretically would reduce the money flowing to the provincial government. If they could be privately owned and then taxed, it would have incentives to avoid paying its full share of taxes.

But because they are government-owned, most Canadian casinos operate as arms of the government. However, there is a downside to government ownership.

In hard times, like during COVID-19 related lockdowns, the government may end up subsidizing casino operations. Instead of having an additional funding source for provincial revenues, they may actually draw down taxpayer money. The large employment base created by land-based casinos disincentivizes a province from shuttering a failing business, no matter how much money it is losing.

the outside of Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls

Fallsview Casino, located in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Ontario has for decades reinvested in its casinos in Niagara Falls and Windsor. But now that the neighboring U.S states of New York and Michigan have their own resort casinos, competition is fierce. And online gambling only further reduces the operating margins at Canadian government-owned locations.

There are First Nation casino locations in Canada that are not owned by the provinces. However, there are no commercially owned Canadian casinos, yet.

What’s the Best Online Casino in Canada?

Finding the top online casino in Canada requires determining what type of gambler you are and what type of experience you seek. For many players, winning is the only thing, so they are searching for online casinos with the largest sign-up, deposit, and retention bonuses plus the highest payout rates.

Other players are more concerned about graphics, sound, and interactive interfaces. To these people, the thematic and story experience is more important than maximizing every last part of a welcome bonus.

There are additional online gamblers who have a specific game in mind. Whether it is a particular online slot or video poker set up that you enjoy or a specialty table game like Sic-Bo, you may prioritize online casinos by their gaming offerings.

Finally, there are other Canadian online gamblers who are poker players or sports bettors. They may be seeking the biggest tournaments or the best odds. This is a long way to say that the best Canadian online casino is the one that first what you are looking for and gives you the best experience.

Read our online casino reviews and find the best places to play online, or discover the best online casino no deposit bonus to start playing.

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