Many people in Canada enjoy playing online casino games, but are they accidentally breaking the law? Could it be a crime to play a thrilling game of online slots or blackjack at an online casino? Let’s find out by taking a look at online gambling and the law in Canada.
A brief history of gambling in Canada in the 20th century
While Canada’s present gambling laws can be complicated, they are still an improvement over the laws that existed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1892, the Canadian Criminal Code instituted new legislation to make the majority of gambling games illegal. The study “The Legalization of Gambling in Canada” details how the Canadian Criminal Code was introduced and incorporated existing laws regarding gambling, while also expanding to include gambling games that weren’t previously covered by the law.
Minor exemptions were made over time. Raffles were permitted at bazaars for charitable or religious objects, a pari-mutuel betting system for horse racing was introduced, and certain games of chance were permitted at agricultural fairs and exhibitions. Overall, however, Canada still had incredibly strict gambling regulations.
Things began to change in 1969 when federal and provincial governments were given permission to run lotteries under specific charitable exemptions, even though there was conflict between said governments. Eventually, in 1985, it was decided that provinces would have control of lotteries, as well as other gambling activities that took place on computers, video devices, or slot machines.
With the advent of the internet, online gambling also became an option, but legislation barred Canadians from taking part until 2009. Just like the decision regarding traditional offline gambling, the government decided to let each province set its own rules regarding online gambling.
Is online gambling legal for Canadian residents?
Let’s start by answering the question you want to know the answer to: is it legal for people to gamble online in Canada? The short answer is yes, but it depends on the province. It is only completely legal when managed by a provincial government, and each province has its own laws regarding online gambling. A gray area also exists regarding the use of offshore gambling sites in many provinces.
Online gambling in each province
Here’s a breakdown of the laws regarding online gambling for each province at the time of writing.
Online gambling is legal on the provincially regulated and licensed sites, as well as regulated and licensed offshore casinos and sportsbooks. You must be at least 18 years old to gamble.
You are allowed to gamble only on British Columbia-regulated sites, but it is not strictly illegal to enjoy online gambling on offshore sites. You must be at least 19 years old to gamble.
Online gambling is legal but only at provincially licensed online gambling sites. However, there is no law prohibiting you from gambling on offshore online casinos and sportsbooks. You must be at least 18 years old to gamble.
Online gambling is legal through the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC). Gamblers are allowed to gamble at offshore online casinos and sports betting services, as long as these casinos do not advertise their services in Canada or operate any of them from within the country. You must be at least 19 years old to gamble.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Online gambling, including casino and lottery games, as well as sports betting, is managed by the ALC and is legal. Any type of online gambling not offered by the ALC is illegal. You must be at least 19 years old to gamble.
Nova Scotia is also part of the ALC, so any online gambling offered by the ALC in the province is legal. However, it was only in 2022 that the ALC only launched online casino games for residents of Nova Scotia to enjoy. Online gamblers can also gamble at offshore casino sites and online sportsbook services. You must be at least 19 years old to gamble.
It is legal to gamble online in Ontario. In April 2022, the provincial government of Ontario expanded its laws to include licenses for other online gambling operators, including BetMGM. Online gambling on offshore sites is legal. You must be at least 19 years old to gamble.
Prince Edward Island
As part of the ALC, online gambling in Prince Edward Island is legal through the province’s online gambling platform. You can also gamble on offshore gambling sites. You must be at least 19 years old to gamble.
It is legal to gamble online through the services offered by Loto-Quebec, Quebec’s provincial gambling company. Gambling on offshore sites is also allowed. You must be at least 18 years old to gamble.
It is not illegal to gamble online in Saskatchewan, but currently, no provincial online gambling services exist. The Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, in partnership with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and the provincial government, announced that it would launch online gambling services sometime in 2022. It is not illegal to gamble using offshore gambling sites. You must be at least 19 years old to gamble.