Canada is one of the few countries in North America with favourable iGaming laws. The country allows different forms of gambling, with numerous provincial and territorial bodies working with the federal government to oversee online and offline betting activities. Throughout this read, you will learn about laws and regulations in the Canadian iGaming market and some of the key acts in place to ensure safe and responsible gambling.
The History of Gambling in Canada
Gambling was initially prohibited in Canada, which saw an increase in illegal betting activities throughout the nation. However, the gambling landscape began to change in 1970 when the government decided to lax its gambling laws, making certain forms of bookmaking legal for the average Canadian citizen. Another significant transition happened in 1985 when the federal government tasked the provincial and territorial governments with the authority to regulate gambling activities within their boundaries.
The legalization of gambling in the country led to the formulation of criminal codes which address different illegal gambling felonies. Some of the main codes include section 201, which deals with illegal betting in gaming and betting houses, and section 202, which tackles unlawful pool-selling and bookmaking. Lastly, there are sections 206 and 209. The former addresses lotteries and games of chance crimes, whereas the latter deals with unlawful practices of games of chance with the intent to commit fraud.
2010 saw another enactment of a law that made the offenses mentioned above indictable under the act of parliament. As a result, serious gambling crimes currently carry a maximum of 2 years. On the other hand, less serious crimes can lead to a maximum of six months in prison and a fine of $5,000. Online gambling is not clearly defined, but the federal government requires respective offshore betting sites to hold a local license to operate in the country.
Betting in Canadian Provinces and Territories
As stated earlier, gambling establishments and betting sites in Canada are managed at the provincial level. Each province has a select government agency tasked with facilitating the advancement of the Canadian iGaming industry and ensuring that gambling platforms contribute to Canada’s economic value while maintaining the welfare of its citizens. To expound further, here are the gambling provinces in Canada and the bodies in charge of betting in the regions.
Ontario is one of the highly populated regions in Canada, with approximately 14.5 million people. Ontario allows iGaming services so long as the company holds a valid license. The body that regulates the iGaming market in Ontario is the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, and its purpose is to ensure legal online gambling for Ontario players. The body works closely with iGaming Ontario or iGO and reports to the ministry of the Attorney General.
Gambling in Ontario has seen significant growth for the past few years. The provincial government has made smart decisions that have helped sports betting and casino gaming establishments, not to mention the online gambling scene. For example, the government has allowed private sports betting in Ontario, a form of online gambling where gamblers can bet on single sports. The law, which was popularly known as Bill C-218, was introduced by the Conservative MP, Kevin Waugh.
The Gaming Commission of Ontario formulated the 1992 Gaming Control Act, which is still operational to date. According to the act, only Canadians 18 years and over can gamble. On the other hand, persons under 19 years are restricted from playing any lottery games in the province. The 1992 act also stipulates that the iGaming registrar has the mandate to verify any information provided during license acquisition and can choose to decline to issue gambling licenses if necessary.
iGaming and other forms of gambling are legal in Quebec and are regulated by Québec Régie des Alcools des Courses et des Jeux. The province has been accepting betting services since the early 1970s. However, the Quebec provincial government plans to ban all offshore iGaming sites operating without a local license. But before that happens, feel free to enjoy different iGaming services, including playing the top five online casino games some of which can be found on popular sportsbooks operating in the province. Lastly, Quebec has a single casino and one betting site operated by the government.
3. Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is a maritime province in Canada popular for fishing and agriculture. It is also known to have lenient gambling laws which allow players to perform different iGaming activities. The Nova Scotia Alcohol and Gaming Authority oversee gambling in the region, and therefore it is in charge of issuing gambling licenses. More than 80% of adults in Nova Scotia are into gambling. You should also know that the province’s standard payout rate of slot machines is 92%. Currently, Nova Scotia has two local online casinos and a single betting site owned by the government.
4. New Brunswick
New Brunswick is yet another province that allows gambling in Canada. The New Brunswick Lotteries and Gaming Corporation manage the entire gambling industry. New Brunswick was the first province in Canada to offer popular video lottery locations. The province also allows different companies to provide gambling enthusiasts with betting services. However, none of the iGaming sites operating in New Brunswick hold a local license apart from a single government-owned betting site. Recently, there were rumours of the provincial government opening a local casino site, but the plan is yet to materialize.
Since the formulation of Manitoba’s Liquor and Gaming Authority in 2014, the province has been offering gamblers access to iGaming services. Manitoba has offshore casinos and government gaming sites. Despite the prevalence of iGaming sites, you must have a verified account to gamble with money. The provincial government limits sports betting to C$ 250 a day to ensure responsible gambling. However, this law is only enforced by local gambling sites and not offshore bookies.
6. British Columbia or BC
British Columbia (BC) allows different forms of gambling, including casino gaming. The British Columbia Lottery Corporation regulates commercial gambling on behalf of the BC government. This province has thousands of offshore iGaming sites and only a single casino with a license from the British Columbia Lottery Corporation. The local casino site started operating in 2004. Also, British Columbia has around 15 land-based casinos operating legally in the province.
7. Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward is a region in Canada comprising a single large island with 231 smaller islands. The province has been allowing different forms of gambling since 1976 when the provincial government formed the Prince Edward Island Lotteries Commission. Currently, the Atlantic Lottery Corporation is in charge of the betting industry. Note that Casino gaming is legal. You can also place bets on regulated and non-regulated sites.
8. Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador do not allow gambling in land-based casinos. This has seen the increment of online gambling in Canada, specifically in the region, with most offering the best gaming services. Licensed First Nation casinos share their revenue with the provincial government and the first nation trust. Also, Newfoundland and Labrador have a single government-owned betting site offering sports betting services.
Alberta is one of the most populated regions in Canada, with around 4.3 million people. The province accepts different forms of gambling and even gets approximately 4% of its revenue from sports betting and iGaming services. The province’s gambling activities are regulated by Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis (AGLC). Alberta has many government-owned gambling sites and multiple offshore gambling platforms. This makes it one of the most suitable provinces for iGaming gambling activities.
From the information above, Canada is one of the few nations in North America that permits different forms of gambling. However, gambling is not regulated at the federal level but rather at the provincial level by different bodies, including the AGLC and the British Columbia Lottery Corporation. The provincial government has the mandate to formulate gambling laws and enact them. This explains why different provinces and territories in Canada have different gambling laws. It is also evident that Canada has many offshore bookies offering sports betting and casino gaming services to the public with countable local sportsbooks, all owned by the government.