Canada has some of the most liberal gambling laws of any country in the world, with gambling allowed in some form or the other across the country.
However, the types of gambling that are allowed differ based on the province or territory. While Canadian real money casinos are generally permitted across the country, online gambling falls into a bit of a grey area, which we will try and expand on further here.
Online gambling is not illegal by Canadian law; however, the current laws do require any online betting service to be licensed by or owned by a provincial government to be legal.
As a general rule, any form of gambling is illegal in Canada if it is not licensed or managed by either the federal or provincial government. This applies to online gambling too, and so, offshore betting sites are illegal in Canada.
There has actually been a case where an offshore betting site was legally pursued by Canada, with the province of British Columbia forcing Delaware-based Starnet Communications to pay $4 million of its revenue to the government as a fine.
The Ontario government had also forfeited $2 million from the Platinum Sports Book group back in 2013. Thus, as one can see, online gambling in Canada is not without its hazards if done on a non-government approved/licensed website.
Of course, the easiest way out for this is to use Canadian sites. There are plenty of Canadian online betting websites available for punters, without having to worry about breaking the law.
British Columbia actually took the lead in this regard, launching PlayNow in 2004. The site is the only legal site for online betting in the province, offering poker, lottery, bingo, and sports betting.
Manitoba followed British Columbia’s lead and set up PlayManitoba in 2013, again making it the only legal website for online gambling within that particular province. There is actually a huge opportunity in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, as it is the only province in Canada where casinos are banned.
As such, if the provincial government was to set up an online gambling portal there, it would presumably have a lot of demand, as citizens are currently forced to turn to offshore providers at the moment at the risk of prosecution. It is the opposite scenario in Saskatchewan, where casinos are allowed but online gambling is banned.
Truth be told, the online gambling laws of Canada are a grey area, because they do not specifically prohibit citizens from using online gambling sites, only from setting up online gambling sites within the borders of the country.
Thus, citizens can actually use online gambling sites without too much fear of persecution. Moreover, some offshore companies actually operate out of servers in the Kahnawake native reserve, which is definitely within the country.
They might be breaking the law by doing so, but one cannot be sure since Canadian laws regarding online gambling are not very clear.
A case in point is the fact that the Kahnawake Mohawk Nation received an exception under Canadian law to provide online gambling services to customers; it is probably this loophole that is being exploited by the offshore providers who have their servers on the territory.
It is still extremely confusing, with the result that most Canadians usually use offshore providers without any repercussions, barring a couple of high-profile cases of prosecution like the ones mentioned above.
Thus, we see that online gambling in Canada is not straightforward, due to the laws regulating the practice.
In practical terms, players can use offshore gambling sites without any issues, even though legally they are not allowed, and it is this paradox which needs to be solved quickly.
Canada has been remarkably progressive with regard to gambling as a whole, and it is time it fixes its laws so that the online gambling sector can also catch up to the times.