Canadian Gambling Laws

In Canada it is completely legal to play at online casinos and gamble online.

Whether you’re new to online casinos in Canada or have been playing for years, at some point you may have wondered about Canadian gambling laws. After all, legal gambling is one thing, but nobody wants to get caught up in illegal betting. In Canada, online betting is quite popular, so it’s important to understand the Canadian law surrounding online gambling.

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History of Canada’s Gambling Laws

Canada’s Criminal Code dates back to 1892, when gambling, as the Canadian Encyclopedia says, was “tolerated”. These laws remained largely untouched until 1910 when the code was amended to allow pari-mutuel betting.

Pari-Mutuel Betting

Of French origins, this betting system allows for bets to go into a pool, where the house takes a cut, and then payouts are made based on sharing the pool.

Horse racing and dog racing use this system. Modern day lotteries evolved out of the pari-mutuel betting.

In the 1970’s Canada’s gambling laws were amended yet again, in a big way. The Canadian provinces received, “the authority to license and regulate gambling.”[1]

The first Casino in Canada opened in 1989 in Winnipeg, followed by the second in Montreal in 1993.

Later in the 1990’s, with the advent of the internet, came online casinos. This is where gambling law become a bit more complicated. According to Thomson Reuters — Practical Law, “Canadian law permits provincial governments (themselves or in conjunction with other provincial governments) to offer online gambling.”[2] But, that means you, as a Canadian, could not create your own online casino or sports betting site.

Enter offshore gambling sites. There is nothing in the criminal code making it illegal to play at an overseas casino. So, playing at an online casino that’s based overseas is legal. You always want to make sure that the online casino is regulated in the country that it operates in. So, if the casino you’ve chosen is based out of Malta, you’d want to make sure it was licensed by the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA).

Internet Gambling Laws in Canada

Gavel sitting on poker table.

The laws that pertain to land-based casinos and lottery systems are quite simple. This is all legal when vetted and licensed by the particular province. In Canada, the provinces oversee gambling legislation. It gets trickier when you start looking at online gambling laws in Canada. As each province is usually focused on it’s own lottery, there’s no centralized body overseeing online gambling.

It is legal for companies outside of Canada to provide online gambling services to Canadians and for them to use it. It is also legal for Canadian companies to provide online gambling services providing they are approved and regulated by their respective provincial government. This means that it is illegal only for Canadian companies that provide these services and have not been approved or are not regulated, which we would not feature on this site.

Promotion of Gambling Sites

There are rules that surround gambling at online casinos in Canada. As such, paid advertising on social media for gambling sites is generally prohibited. Let’s take a look at Facebook, Instagram and Twitter’s policies for paid promotion of these gambling sites.

Facebook & Instagram Gambling Policy

Ads that promote or facilitate online real money gambling, games of skill or lotteries, including online casino, sports books, bingo, or poker, are only allowed with prior written permission. Authorized gambling, games of skill or lottery ads must target people 18 years or older who are in jurisdictions for which permission has been granted.

Twitter Gambling Policy

Twitter prohibits the promotion of gambling content, except for campaigns targeting specified countries where it is allowed with restrictions as explained below.

Gambling Advertisements in Canada

Online casino games and sport betting advertisements provided by [provincially]-licensed entities in Canada are permitted. These advertisers are only allowed with prior authorization from Twitter.

Fantasy sports ads are permitted.

How Online Gambling Laws May Affect You

If you regularly play at an online casino in Canada, unless you are playing at BCLC Play Now, you’re on an overseas gambling site. You’re concerns are likely about whether or not the offshore site is legal in it’s own country and regulated by a governing body.

At present, Canadians playing at online casinos don’t have anything to worry about, as there is no legislation that makes gambling online illegal. Importantly, no one to date has been arrested or fined in any way for gambling through an online casino which is legally licensed in its own country.  This does seem to suggest that Canadians have nothing to fear in this regard, and it is simply an oversight in the gambling laws that have not been updated for modern times.

Kahnawake Gaming Commission

If we’re talking about gambling laws in Canada then we have to discuss the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. For those of you that don’t know, Kahnawake is a Mohawk Territory just outside of Montreal. This territory exists outside of the jurisdiction of Canadian gambling laws. And so, the Kahnawake Gaming Comission was born.

This gaming commission is able to license online casinos as long as they do business from within Kahnawake. For instance, one of the casinos we recommended, Mummys Gold Casino, is authorized to operate by the commission.

There have been many eyebrows raised about the legality of the commission operating within Canada. What many may not understand is that Kahnawake is regarded as its own sovereign nation, and is not actually controlled by Canadian laws. Under their own laws, the gaming commission is perfectly legal.

Sources for Canadian Gambling Laws

  1. Sheppard, R. R., & Smith, G. J. (2006, February 7). Gambling. Retrieved November 28, 2019, from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/gambling.
  2. Hincer, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, I. (2016, November 1). Gaming in Canada: overview. Retrieved November 28, 2019, from https://uk.practicallaw.thomsonreuters.com/6-635-9706?transitionType=Default&contextData=(sc.Default)&firstPage=true&bhcp=1.

 

Canadian Gambling Laws FAQ

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