Gambling Laws in Canada

Navigating the complexities of Canada’s gambling laws can be daunting, but it’s crucial for anyone engaging in this popular pastime. Whether you’re a seasoned online gambler or new to the scene, understanding these laws ensures a safe and enjoyable experience.

  • Updated: 03.03.2024
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Canadian Gambling Laws

This comprehensive guide delves into the history, current status, and future trends of Canadian gambling regulations. Covering everything from legal ages for different gambling forms to province-specific laws, and offering insights on secure online gambling, this article is your go-to resource for staying informed and compliant.

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History of Gambling Laws in Canada

Throughout its history, Canadian gambling laws have evolved from stringent prohibition to a more liberal and regulated approach, mirroring the changing societal attitudes towards gambling.

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The short answer is yes, gambling is legal in Canada, but it comes with a set of intricacies shaped by the country’s unique approach to regulation. Canada’s stance on gambling is characterized by a blend of federal oversight and provincial autonomy, leading to a diverse gambling landscape across the country.

  1. Federal and Provincial Roles: The Canadian Criminal Code outlines the primary legal framework for gambling, but it delegates considerable control to the provinces. This means while certain federal laws apply universally, each province can regulate gambling activities within its borders.
  2. Provincial Regulation: As a result, each province has established its own rules and regulatory bodies. For instance, Ontario has the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG), while British Columbia operates through the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC). These bodies oversee everything from lotteries to land-based casinos.
  3. Variety of Legal Options: In Canada, you can legally engage in various forms of gambling, including lotteries, casino games, slot machines, horse racing betting, and charitable gaming like bingo. The availability and nature of these activities, however, can vary from province to province.
  4. Sports Betting: Recent changes in Canadian law have also opened the door for single-event sports betting, which was previously prohibited. This change signifies an ongoing evolution in the country’s gambling laws.

Yes, online gambling is legal in Canada. Some provinces offer their own online gambling services, and while the use of offshore gambling sites is not explicitly addressed in Canadian law, many Canadians access these sites without legal repercussions.

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Canadian Gambling Laws by Province

Each Canadian province has distinct gambling laws, reflecting their unique approaches to regulation and cultural perspectives. Below is a brief overview, with each province offering a deeper exploration in their respective articles:

  1. British Columbia: Offers a mix of land-based casinos, online gambling through PlayNow.com, and sports betting, all regulated by the BCLC.
  2. Alberta: Known for its wide array of casinos and racing entertainment centers, Alberta’s gambling activities are overseen by the AGLC.
  3. Saskatchewan: The SLGA regulates the province’s casinos, with an upcoming online gambling platform in the works.
  4. Manitoba: Features a combination of casinos and online gambling options, including PlayNow.com, regulated by the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Corporation.
  5. Ontario: Home to a significant number of casinos and the recently regulated online gambling market, overseen by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).
  6. Quebec: Offers a range of gambling options including casinos and Espacejeux, the province’s online gambling site, all regulated by Loto-QuΓ©bec.
  7. New Brunswick: The New Brunswick Lotteries and Gaming Corporation oversees the province’s limited number of casinos and lottery games.
  8. Nova Scotia: Regulated by the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, the province offers casinos, lottery games, and community gaming centers.
  9. Prince Edward Island: The Prince Edward Island Lotteries Commission governs the limited gambling options, primarily focusing on lottery and charitable gaming.
  10. Newfoundland and Labrador: Limited to lottery and video lottery terminals, gambling here is regulated by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation.
  11. Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut: These territories offer limited gambling options, mainly focused on lottery and charitable gaming, with regulations overseen by local governmental bodies.

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In Canada, the legal age to engage in gambling activities varies depending on the province or territory. It’s important to note that these age restrictions apply to all forms of legal gambling within the province, including entry to casinos, purchasing lottery tickets, and participating in online gambling offered by provincial bodies. Adherence to these age limits is strictly enforced, and identification is often required for verification in casinos and when purchasing lottery tickets.

18 Years Old

In the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec, individuals can legally participate in gambling activities, including casinos, lotteries, and sports betting, once they turn 18.

19 Years Old

In the remaining provinces and territories β€” British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, and the territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut) β€” the legal age is set at 19.

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Here’s an overview of some legal online casinos across various Canadian provinces:

British Columbia

PlayNow.com, operated by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), is the legal online gambling site offering casino games, sports betting, poker, and lottery.


Ontario

Ontario has a regulated iGaming market with multiple legal online casino options. Operators like BetMGM, DraftKings, and FanDuel are among those licensed and regulated by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).


Quebec

Espacejeux is the online gaming site managed by Loto-QuΓ©bec, offering a variety of online casino games, including slots, table games, and poker.


Manitoba

PlayNow.com is also available in Manitoba, in partnership with the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Corporation. It offers similar games as its British Columbia counterpart.

Atlantic Provinces

The Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) provides legal online gambling options for residents of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island through its online platform.


Alberta

Alberta launched PlayAlberta.ca, operated by the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission (AGLC), featuring various casino games and lotteries.


Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan is in the process of establishing its own legal online gaming platform, expected to launch soon.

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The area of offshore online casinos remains a gray zone. The Canadian Criminal Code does not explicitly prohibit playing at offshore online casinos. As a result, many Canadians access and gamble on these sites.

Top 5 Offshore Online Casinos for Canadians

  1. PlayOjo
  2. Jackpot City
  3. 32Red
  4. Ruby Fortune
  5. Mr Green

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How to Stay Secure while Gambling Online

By following these guidelines, you can enjoy a safer and more secure online gambling experience, keeping both your personal information and finances protected.

  1. Choose Licensed and Regulated Casinos: Always play at online casinos that are licensed and regulated by reputable authorities. Regarding offshore online casinos, the most reputable and trusted licenses often come from the Malta Gaming Authority, the UK Gambling Commission, and the Government of Curacao. These regulatory bodies are known for their stringent standards and commitment to ensuring fair and secure online gambling practices.
  2. Check for Secure Connections: Before entering any personal or financial information, ensure the website uses secure, encrypted connections. Look for ‘https://’ at the beginning of the web address and a padlock icon in the browser’s address bar.
  3. Use Trusted Payment Methods: Opt for well-known and reliable payment methods, such as credit cards, e-wallets, or bank transfers. These methods often offer additional layers of security and dispute resolution mechanisms.
  4. Set Limits for Yourself: Responsible gambling involves setting limits on your time and money spent. Most reputable sites offer tools to help you set these limits and stick to them.
  5. Read the Terms and Conditions: Understand the terms and conditions of the site, especially regarding bonuses, withdrawals, and wagering requirements. This knowledge can prevent misunderstandings and disputes.
  6. Keep Software Updated: Ensure your device’s software, including antivirus and anti-malware programs, is up-to-date. This helps protect against security threats that could compromise your personal data.
  7. Use Strong Passwords: Create strong and unique passwords for your online gambling accounts. Avoid using the same password across multiple sites.
  8. Be Wary of Public Wi-Fi: Avoid gambling online when connected to public Wi-Fi networks. These networks are less secure and can make your personal information vulnerable to hackers.
  9. Monitor Account Activity: Regularly check your gambling accounts and bank statements for any unauthorized or suspicious transactions.
  10. Seek Help if Needed: If you have concerns about your gambling habits, don’t hesitate to seek help. Most reputable gambling sites provide resources and links to professional help services.

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Taxation on Gambling Winnings in Canada

In Canada, the taxation of gambling winnings follows a unique approach. Generally, gambling winnings are not taxed unless they are seen as a form of income from a business. This rule applies to lottery, casino, and online gambling winnings for casual gamblers. However, for those who gamble professionally, where gambling is their main source of income, the winnings are subject to taxation. The distinction between casual and professional gambling can sometimes be complex, and it’s crucial to understand these nuances. For a detailed exploration of this topic, including specific scenarios and tax obligations, be sure to read our dedicated article on the taxation of gambling winnings in Canada.

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Comparing Canadian Gambling Laws to Other Countries

When contrasting Canadian gambling laws with those of other countries, several key differences and similarities emerge, offering insight into Canada’s unique position in the global gambling landscape.

United States

Unlike Canada’s decentralized approach, where provinces regulate gambling, the U.S. has both state and federal regulations. However, like Canada, the legal gambling age varies by state. Online gambling laws in the U.S. are also complex and vary significantly by state.


United Kingdom

The UK operates under a unified framework with the UK Gambling Commission overseeing all forms of gambling. The legal age for all gambling activities is 18. The UK is known for its robust online gambling regulations and a strong focus on player protection.

Australia

Similar to Canada, Australia has a decentralized system with each state and territory having its own regulations. However, Australia has stricter laws on online gambling, with an outright ban on many forms of internet gambling activities.


European Union (EU) Countries

Within the EU, gambling laws vary significantly among member states. Some countries have liberal gambling markets (like Spain and Italy), while others have state monopolies or even prohibitions.

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FAQ

Yes, tourists can gamble in Canada, provided they meet the legal age requirement of the province they are visiting. Casinos, lotteries, and other gambling facilities are open to non-residents.
Yes, Canada has specific regulations on gambling advertising, varying by province. These rules are designed to promote responsible gambling and often restrict misleading or aggressive marketing tactics.
Canada takes problem gambling seriously, with each province providing resources for support and prevention, such as helplines, self-exclusion programs, and educational materials.
Underage gambling is illegal in Canada, and violators, including establishments that permit it, can face penalties. Consequences vary by province but generally include fines and suspension of licenses for businesses.
Betting on esports is legal in some Canadian provinces, but it's subject to the same regulations as other forms of sports betting. Availability and rules can vary depending on the province.
Generally, gambling winnings are not taxed in Canada. However, if gambling is a primary source of income, like professional poker playing, it may be taxable. This applies to winnings from both domestic and international sources.
The licensing process for a new casino in Canada involves rigorous checks and compliance with provincial regulations. This includes financial background checks, adherence to gaming laws, and measures for responsible gambling