Online Gambling Canada Laws

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Casinos in Oklahoma City
Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash Copyright 2022

Canada has a rare combination of an intrinsic charm as well as urban modernism. From being the second-largest state in the world in terms of total size to the steel and glass towers in Toronto to the freezing tundra of Nunavut, Canada has plenty to brag about.  In fact, their national pride extends to their thriving gambling industry and the rules that keep it functioning smoothly.

Gambling and playing in real money casinos are among the most popular recreational activities in Canada. The emergence of online casinos powered by reputable gaming studios like Spinomenal, Microgaming, and many others, has further enhanced the popularity of gambling in Canada. However, like those in other states of the world, local gambling regulations are deemed to be quite complex. This article will break down Canadian gambling laws, including those that govern online casinos.

Brief History of Gambling Laws in Canada

The gambling industry in Canada dates back to its indigenous people who engaged in games and betting using sticks. However, card games were the first form of table games introduced in Canada. People began playing cards soon after the expedition of John Cabot to the Canadian coastlines in 1497. They enjoyed games such as faro, which later evolved into blackjack and poker. 

Over the years, gambling became more popular, and more games like barbotte and dice games became player favorites among Canadians. Till the late 1800s, gambling had always been legal in Canada. However, the federal government passed legislation to allow provincial governments to control and limit the industry. As a result, Canadians who satisfied various requirements could operate and visit land-based casinos at their convenience. 

The first gambling laws in Canada were passed in 1892 under the Canadian Criminal Code. It contained some regulations related to gambling. The section was further amended in 1910, legalizing horse-racing pari-mutuel betting as well as other games of chance for religious and charitable purposes. In 1970, the Criminal Code was revised once more 1970 to allow provinces control over gambling. The country’s first casino opened in Winnipeg in 1989, followed by several more in Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and Ontario.

Illegal gambling was often considered one of the victimless crimes, thus the government did not see it as a serious danger to Canadians. However, in July 2010, gambling offenses listed in the Criminal Code were changed to ‘severe offenses’ that attract a two-year jail term or a $5,000 fine.

Is Online Gambling Legal in Canada?

Many online gamblers in Canada are unclear about the laws that govern online casinos. Generally, it is illegal to run poker rooms and online casinos in Canada, according to the Criminal Code. Furthermore, the code still provides that it is unlawful to launch and run gambling websites within the country.

However, each Canadian province has the authority to allow specified forms of gaming that are “run on or via a computer.” As such, this provision is what opens the door for provinces and territories to ban or legalize online casinos. In addition, the situation about the laws governing online gambling has become more complex since there is a portion of the Criminal Code that states that only the Canadian government and its province can conduct any gambling. 

The only exception is the Kahnawake Mohawk Nation, which has the legal authority to offer its players their own gambling site. But, most offshore gambling servers are on the Kahnawake Native Reserve, which is within the country. In addition, most well-respected regulatory authorities, like the UK Gambling Commission and the Malta Gambling Authority, support internet gambling.

Technically, it is legal to gamble online in Canada, provided that you play only in the best Canadian casinos located offshore. This means that you should only play on gambling sites that accept Canadian players, have an active license from a reputable gambling authority, and regulate independently and frequently. 

Online gamblers can also gamble online on sites run by the province where they reside. However, it is worth noting that gambling laws differ from one province to another. Thus, it is vital to go through and understand the gambling laws of the Canadian province where you reside before beginning to play online casino games.

Who Regulates Canadian Gambling Laws?

At a federal level, the Canadian Gaming Commission regulates the gambling industry. It provides insightful information and responds to any serious difficulties that may arise in the gambling market. However, specific laws related to online gambling, casinos, sports betting, and other similar affairs are under the responsibility of individual territorial and provincial governments.

Back in 1985, the federal government announced that all gambling and betting-related activities were under the supervision and regulation of territories and provinces. As a result, many Canadian territories and provinces have now established their own internet casinos. As mentioned earlier, it is permissible to gamble on such platforms. Canadians can also play at online casinos run by corporations based outside of the country.

Future Developments of Canadian Gambling Laws

When it comes to the future of the laws that govern Canadian gambling, everything remains uncertain. While investors and partners in the industry are taking a wait-and-see approach, the federal government seems to be showing little interest in tightening the laws and banning Canadian from playing on offshore online casinos. However, since there is a loss of tax money, one cannot be too sure.

Likewise, a completely legal and nationwide ‘white market’ like that of the United Kingdom, whereby offshore gambling sites function under a similar legal identity as those run by provincial authorities, appears unlikely. This is primarily because gambling sites run by the provinces would lose even more to the more popular ‘offshore’ gaming sites.

With the Canadian government focused on other dangers and legislative issues, the best strategy is to maintain the status quo, which allows Canadians to play at a wide range of overseas casino sites. However, it is critical for Canadian players to ensure that they are playing at only the best and most trusted online casinos to avoid scam sites.


While it can be easy to get confused by the legal status of online gambling in Canada, it is clear that it is legal to gamble online in trusted offshore online casinos and sites run by provincial gaming authorities. Thus, Canadian players should ensure that they select a gambling site with a valid license from a reputable gambling body and independently accredited.

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