Canada may be one of the most liberal countries at the moment, but it was quite different in the 1970s. From the 19th century to the end of the 70s, all forms of gambling were strictly forbidden and had severe criminal sanctions. At that time, Canada was much more “puritan” than today. Even lottery draws were not legal until 1980 and were considered a form of gambling.
In 1985, this situation changed: Seeing how much tax income other countries had from legal gambling, Canada decided to legalize both sports betting and land-based casinos. But instead of doing this at the federal level, the government left it to the discretion of the states. In other words, the government gave freedom to each state to make gambling legal or not. Unsurprisingly, all states made land-based gambling legal: The tax income was too big to be ignored. This situation continues today: You can legally bet on sports in all Canadian provinces, or visit a casino and try your luck in the game of your choice. However, there is still a problem: the legality of online gambling.
Is Online Gambling Legal in Canada?
The short answer is, no, it’s not legal. The long answer is that it doesn’t matter.
If both answers raise more questions, let’s try to explain briefly. All of the regulations that made gambling legal were created between 1985 and 1990. In this era, the internet revolution had not yet begun fully and it was not in anyone’s mind that online casinos like vulkanvegas.com could exist one day. The internet at that time consisted of message rooms and Usenet. Therefore, online gambling was not mentioned in any legal regulations. When online casinos began to become widespread, no state was concerned with updating its laws. This is still ongoing: Existing Canadian gambling laws are so old that they only regulate land-based casinos and betting booths. There is no provision for online casinos. This prevents them from being legal. However, it is not possible to say that they are illegal for the same reason: Online casinos are in some form of “legal limbo”. They are neither legal nor illegal because the law does not recognize their existence.
So, why is this not important? Well, simply because no sanction is imposed on offshore sites. Canadian players do not need online casinos and betting sites operating in their own country because the internet is full of hundreds of options. The Canadian government does not enforce any offshore sites. There is no censorship for these sites, and local banks also smoothly handle gambling-related payments. Since there are no restrictions, Canadian players do not complain about the situation: There are already hundreds of online casinos that accept them and they are free to choose.
Moreover, they have a legal basis: In 2016, the state of Quebec issued a legal arrangement that allowed to block access to offshore casinos and betting sites. The Constitutional Court cancelled this regulation in 2018 on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. Since this decision affects all states, it is no longer possible to make a similar arrangement. In other words, Canadian players’ rights to play on offshore sites are protected by the Constitutional Court itself.
The Current Situation of Legal Gambling in Canada
In short, the current situation of gambling in Canada is:
- Land-based casinos are legal;
- Land-based sports betting is legal;
- Online casinos are not legal (nor illegal);
- Online sports betting is not legal (nor illegal).
There are 10 provinces in Canada and each of them has its own regulation agency. In this regard, the legal gambling age in Canada is 18 or 19, depending on which province you live in. You can see the full list of regulatory agencies in the table below:
|Ontario||Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation|
|Alberta||Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission|
|British Columbia||British Columbia Legal Casinos (BCLC)|
|Manitoba||Liquor and Gaming Commission of Manitoba|
|Saskatchewan||Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority|
|New Brunswick||New Brunswick Gaming Control Commission|
|Nova Scotia||Alcohol, Gaming, Fuel and Tobacco Division|
|New Foundland||Services New Foundland|
|Prince Edward Island||Lotteries Commission|
So, if you want to open a new casino in Ontario, for example, you must apply to “Lottery And Gambling Corporation” for your license. Each province has its own rules, fees, and license conditions. And if you want to open an online gambling establishment, well, you can’t, as there is no legal basis for it. You can simply open your online casino (or sports betting site) in another country and accept Canadian players.