Canadian Gambling Regulations

Canada is so big that it's only natural that things would be different from one end of the country to the other. For example, Québec is a French-speaking province that has a European flair with exceptional cuisine. On the other hand, British Columbia has a more Northern California feel where many residents enjoy outdoor hiking and nature.

The same differences apply to gambling laws in Canada since most Acts are passed at the provincial or territorial level, in line with the regulatory framework of the Canadian Criminal Code. Here at Online Casino List, we have gambling facts that Canadians will find helpful.

Federal Gambling Laws

Pari-mutuel horse racing is regulated and supervised at the Federal level by the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency (CPMA). Although greyhound racing is legal in Canada, pari-mutuel racing is not.

Single event sports gambling was illegal in Canada, but that is about to change. In November 2020, an Act (Bill C-13) was introduced to amend Canada's Criminal Code gambling definition. This would allow the provinces and territories to license and regulate single-event sports betting.

General Provincial Gambling Laws

Provincial land-based casinos are available in most provinces except for Newfoundland & Labrador. These casinos may consist of First Nations, privately-operated, racetrack casinos (racinos) and government-owned. The mix varies depending on the province. Charitable gaming also falls under provincial jurisdiction along with provincial lotteries.

Online Gambling

Online gambling, including online casinos, falls under the jurisdiction of each province. Some have lottery Crown corporations that also operate online casinos and/or sports betting. For example, British Columbia has 'PlayNow Casino,' where players can find slots, table games, video poker and sometimes live casino. It also offers 'Sports Action' where players can bet on the outcome of matches. Ontario has the OLG, which offers online casino gambling and sports betting but no live casino. Quebec, Alberta and the Atlantic Provinces provide their own casino gambling sites to residents.

It's fair to say that provincial monopolies have resulted in less game selection, bonuses and promotions. This has driven Canadian online gambling offshore, which represents a grey area in Canadian law.

Provincial governments argue that this constitutes illegal gambling. However, Section 6 of Canada's Criminal Code holds as follows: "no person may be convicted of an offence committed outside of Canada." Foreign operators have removed any connection to Canada by ensuring that their gaming servers are located outside of the country.

Offshore Online Gambling Regulation

You may be surprised to know that several offshore online gambling regulators issue licences and regulate casinos. This can get more than a little confusing because not all of them are built the same. Online gambling regulation falls into three main categories.

No Gambling Regulation

Some offshore online casinos operate unlicensed and unregulated. But what are some of the things that can go wrong with casinos not bound by gambling regulation? One of the biggest potential problems playing at unlicensed and unregulated casinos is the non-payment of legitimate winnings. While there can be several reasons why an online casino can legitimately refuse a payout, some will avoid honouring payout requests on legitimate winnings. When this happens, they may accuse the player of breaching a T&C, which can be vague or untrue. Additional potential problems with unlicensed and unregulated casinos are misleading promotions & adverts, un-fair random number generators (RNGs), incorrect betting settlements or inability to withdraw funds.

Before registering at an online casino, always ensure that it is licensed and regulated in a jurisdiction with competent gambling laws. The casino must display the regulator's logo somewhere on its website. Be wary of an online casino that claims to be licensed but does not display a seal.

Weak Gambling Regulation

Weak online gambling regulation is the second category. There are several regulators with a reputation for being hands-off with online casinos that they license. For example, the Curaçao eGaming regulator, located in the Caribbean, just north of Venezuela, is one of the oldest licensing bodies in the world. Other jurisdictions such as Panama and Costa Rica also have online gambling regulators with a similar reputation.

These are known as low-cost regulators where obtaining a license is simple. Casinos may get their license here just to tick a box and appear more legitimate. Regulations are considered weaker and less hands-on than the third category next.

Strong Gambling Regulation

The third category of gambling regulation is the type with greater substance. Many online casinos obtain a license from the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA). Additionally, there are also the Alderney Gambling Control Commission, Gibraltar Regulatory Authority and UK Gambling Commission. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission is another licensing and regulating body located on sovereign Mohawk Territory in Québec, Canada. Although these are different regulators, fundamental principles behind regulations are similar:

  • Protection of player rights

  • Protection of minors and most vulnerable

  • Promotion of gambling responsibly

  • Ensuring the integrity of gaming devices and games

  • Promoting the integrity of the industry

Closing Thoughts: Canadian Online Gambling

Gambling laws in Canada are a patchwork of gambling regulations where what's legal in one province is illegal in another. When playing at an online casino located outside of Canada, make sure that it is licensed and regulated in a reputable jurisdiction like the Kahnawake Gaming Commission.

While the quality of regulations does not automatically make a casino safer or better, you are more likely to have a positive experience. It's a little like betting on a hockey match. Most of the time, you're better off backing the stronger team, but there's still that tiny chance that things can go wrong.