Is Online Gambling Legal in Canada?

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Betting and gambling has always been a favourite pastime in Canada, and even more so since the growth of online gaming. However, the laws of gambling may be a bit shoddy as betting on the Internet forms part of a grey area in Canada law. But does this 'legal grey area' mean that you are breaking the law while playing your favourite casino game in the comfort of your home? The short answer is no, although the long answer is more complicated.

While gambling in Canada falls under the provincial jurisdiction, it is online gambling that poses a complex situation, as it does not operate according to provincial boundaries. Online gambling sites are not allowed to operate within the Canadian boundaries. The kicker is that most online gambling sites base their operations in overseas locations where gambling rules are lax and the government appreciates the extra revenue in tax like Gibraltar, Cyprus and the Isle of Man. When referring to Canada specifically, the Kahnawake native reserve houses most offshore gaming servers.  But what about the players? While it is illegal to run an online casino from Canada, it is not specifically illegal to play at online casinos or poker rooms. Despite laws indicating that it is illegal for Canadian players to be found at online betting sites, the rules are murky and unclear.

Before online betting became a factor in the country, the legalities of gambling were pretty straightforward. Each province would determine its own rules for gambling at sportsbooks, casinos, bingo halls, lotteries or poker rooms. Horseracing, on the other hand, is regulated by the Canadian Parimutuel Agency. But as time went on, every province except Saskatchewan seems to have adopted online casino gambling in Canada as a new way of life. The country's main uncertainty regarding online gambling stems from the Criminal Code and whether or not it prohibits offshore operators from providing this service to Canadian players. In 2001, the B.C Supreme cleared some of the uncertainty in a case involving Starnet Communications International. The court found that the Canadian-based gambling, which operated with an Antigua license from their Vancouver office, was not allowed to legally accept bets from Canadian players. What this means is that, if your company is based in a region that allows online gambling, then Canadian rules do not apply.

How does Canadian Gambling Laws Affect You?

If you live in Canada, you're probably concerned about whether your online gambling habits are considered illegal. Due to the grey legislation, it is honestly difficult to say whether gambling online is illegal or not. What can be said is that there is no Canadian law specifically outlawing gambling on the Internet, although there is none that states it is legal either. An old law states that it is illegal to be found in a 'common betting house', although this is an obviously outdated term that doesn't hold much weight these days. What this grey area also means is that there is no regulation in Canada for offshore gambling sites. But this shouldn't discourage you as there are plenty of reputable online gambling sites available that accept Canadian players that are licensed and regulated by respected jurisdictions. It is also worth mentioning that no one has ever been prosecuted in Canada for gambling online.


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