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Online Gambling in Canada
Online gambling in Canada is more popular than ever, despite Canada’s murky laws surrounding offshore online casinos.
Gambling is a thriving industry in Canada and over the past 10 years, the online sector has been contributing significantly to the industry’s growth. In 2019, gambling revenue in Canada totalled over $2.65 million, $1.2 billion of which came from online gamling. However, it’s estimated that the country is losing between $1 to $2 billion in revenue due to its laissez faire attitude about gambling regulations.
History of Gambling in Canada
Gambling in Canada was illegal until 1970, when the government slowly started allowing certain forms of gambling. The Criminal Code of Canada, the bill that addresses gambling activities in the country, had previously prohibited all forms of gambling, but in 1970, it was amended to allow certain types.
In 1985, provinces and territories were given the right to oversee slots, lotteries, and other types of gambling, including online gambling. So while the Criminal Code defines online gambling as illegal, Canadian provinces have the right to legalize it as they see fit. The law states that online casinos can only operate if they are licensed and regulated by provincial governments.
Despite Canada’s requirement for online casinos to be licensed, many offshore casinos operate illegally. And while their operations are technically illegal, Canada’s policy has been not to prosecute or prevent them from operating. In fact, it’s totally legal for Canadians to play at these offshore casinos.
While many Canadians do play at unlicensed offshore casinos, playing at a licensed casino is much safer since they need to meet certain standards of fairness, security, and consumer protection.
The Kahnawake Gaming Commission
The Criminal Code states that only the Canadian government or provincial governments can operate any form of gambling. The exception to this rule is the Kahnawake Mohawk Nation, whose territory is a sovereign legal entity and not bound by Canadian law. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission is a regulatory body that is responsible for issuing licenses and regulating online casinos, poker rooms, and sportsbooks within the Kahnawake territory.
A Gray Market
Since the Canadian government has not been willing to ban offshore casinos but it also has not explicitly allowed them, Canada is considered a “gray” online gambling market. At this point, no Canadian has ever been prosecuted for playing at an offshore casino. It’s likely that even if Canada does enact more strict regulations, it won’t affect players. Online casinos, on the other hand, may have to perform new compliance should Canada change its current laws.
Online and Land-Based Casinos
There are 10 provinces in Canada and most provide a framework for licensing online casinos. Residents of provinces that don’t have legal online casinos can still find many offshore online casinos to play at.
In addition to many online gambling options, there are also many land-based options Canadians can choose from, especially in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia.
Overall, the most popular type of gambling in Canada is lottery tickets, with a 65% participation rate. Scratchies are the second-most popular type of gambling in Canada at 36%. According to the country’s records, 60% of Canadians partake in gambling, while only 22% of Canadians visit land-based casinos. With a 40% differential between the number of Canadians who gamble and those who gamble at land-based casinos, it’s clear that online gambling is a significant driver in Canada’s growing gambling industry.
Should the Canadian government decide to take a more proactive approach toward online gambling, online gambling revenue can climb from less than $3 billion a year to $4 billion. For now though, Canadians, their government, and offshore casinos operators are satisfied maintaining the status quo.