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Gambling Laws & Licensing in Canada

If you want to engage in any kind of gambling activity in Canada, you need first to understand the country’s legislative framework. This article will discuss how gambling and online gambling are regulated in the Great White North and what you need to pay attention to when choosing a casino. Moreover, we’ll discuss each Canadian province and talk about their laws regarding gambling. Read on.

Who regulates gambling in Canada and how?

Gambling activity in Canada is mentioned in the federal Criminal Code (also referred to as just the Code) — sections 201 through 206. In them, all types of gambling, betting, and lotteries are made illegal in the Great White North, except pari-mutuel betting on horse races, which is covered in section 204. Still, the Code is subject to interpretation, as it draws little to no distinction between games of skill and games of chance. Moreover, there are no mentions in the Code regarding online gambling.

Despite that, each Canadian territory has regulatory statutes of its own and its regulators. Once again, only pari-mutuel betting on horse races is an exemption, as it is governed by the federal Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency. It means that territories are left on their own to regulate gambling activities, and we’re going to explore them in this guide as well.

What about online gambling? Is it regulated?

Online gambling is not mentioned on the federal level nor any of the territories regulated in any way. It means that Canadian players are free to visit international gambling sites available in their country, open an account, and play games for real money without being prosecuted.

The only state that tried to introduce a type of blacklist restricting its residents to access private online gaming sites was Quebec back in 2016. However, the legislation was rejected by a Quebec court as unconstitutional back in 2018, meaning it has no force or effect at the moment. The court’s decision is under appeal at the moment. Therefore, it’s up to you to monitor the situation closely in your territory, but for now, you’re free to access online gambling sites anywhere in Canada.

Some states offer legal online casinos, sports betting, and lottery via the PlayNow program, but the options are fairly limited and heavily regulated.

How are online gambling trends changing in Canada?

It’s safe to say that an increasing number of Canadians are interested in online gambling, including casino games, sports betting, fantasy sports, online poker, and more. There are many great options available for them, with the majority being licensed by reputable offshore regulators.

One of the things that affected the online gambling trends was the Covid-19 pandemic, which made many people interested in this type of entertainment. An increasing number of players started gambling actively using their PCs, smartphones, and tablets. Therefore, there’s a good reason for Canadian lawmakers to consider regulating the market somehow in the future.

Licensing for casinos in Canada

No casinos are licensed on the federal level. In fact, licenses are issued only by the official regulatory bodies for every Canadian territory, meaning the operator has to apply with them in order to get the necessary certifications.

Since online gambling isn’t legal in any of the territories, it means that regulators cannot issue licenses for online casinos in Canada, sportsbooks, poker sites, and more. All of the platforms that are on the web are licensed by one of the offshore regulators.

That said, keep a good look at the gambling legislature in your territory to see whether some online gambling activities are legalized in the meantime.

Canada licensing jurisdictions

There are many licensing jurisdictions in Canada, as almost every territory has a regulator of its own. Moreover, some territories also have different regulators for different types of gambling. For example, lotteries and casinos might not be regulated by the same gambling commission. Therefore, make sure to check the regulatory bodies in your territory to learn more about them.

Canada licensing

Suppose you want to obtain a license in Canada. In that case, you have to select the appropriate licensing jurisdiction that regulates gambling in the territory where your gambling operation is supposed to be. You have to provide all the necessary paperwork and apply for the permit to operate a gambling business in Canada.

Canada licensing

Suppose you want to obtain a license in Canada. In that case, you have to select the appropriate licensing jurisdiction that regulates gambling in the territory where your gambling operation is supposed to be. You have to provide all the necessary paperwork and apply for the permit to operate a gambling business in Canada.

How do we find the most reputable sites?

To select the best online gambling site, you need to take a good look at it and pay attention to the following criteria, which we used to find the platforms featured on this page.

  • Licenses — Is the site licensed by a reputable online regulatory body?
  • Transparency — Can you view all the information regarding the platform? Is the site transparent with the credentials?
  • Fairness — Is the site audited for fairness by an independent auditor?
  • Bonuses — Are there legitimate bonuses with reasonable wagering requirements?
  • Currency — Can you play games on the site using the Canadian dollar?
  • Payments — Are payments swift and accurate? Are there any payment fees?
  • Security — Does the site use all the industry-required security protocols?
  • Reputation — What are other players saying about the site? What about reviews?
  • Software — Is the underlying software that powers the site reputable? Does it have a history of successfully powering other online casinos?
  • Errors & glitches — Does the site experience bugs or glitches, poor performance and how often?
  • Customer support — Is customer support helpful, responsive, and knowledgeable?

Sports, lottery and bingo laws

Sports betting laws in Canada

Technically speaking, all forms of betting on sports, except for parlay betting, are illegal in Canada. It means you cannot place bets on single sports events. You might find some of the state-licensed online sports betting options, but they have pretty limited possibilities. On the other hand, it’s not illegal to join offshore betting sites and access all other sports betting options.

Also, none of this applies to pari-mutuel wagering, which is legal on the federal level in Canada. It means you’re free to place bets on horse racing all over the country legally.

Lottery and bingo laws

The situation with lottery and bingo is similar to other gambling activities — it is regulated and licensed on the province level, and each territory has a special regulator that makes sure everything’s in order when it comes to the lottery. This type of gambling is legal in almost all Canadian provinces, so feel free to examine the available lottery games in your area if you want to take part in them. Needless to say, the laws regarding the lottery might be slightly different in every province, so we suggest checking them out before actually taking part in this.

Upcoming changes: what can we expect?

There are several gaming initiatives currently underway in Canada, with strong indicators that the federal government is ready to introduce the law and amend the Code to permit single-event sports betting options. Moreover, the Province of Ontario is doing a great job on the legislation that aims to license, regulate, and tax private online gaming companies. If this takes place, other provinces in Canada will likely follow it, but things remain uncertain at the moment.

Canadian gambling laws by province

Alberta

  • 24 land-based gambling options
  • Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission is the main regulatory body
  • No online gambling options (except for internationally-owned sites)

British Columbia

Manitoba

  • Manitoba also offers some online gambling options via PlayNow
  • Eight land-based gambling options available
  • The main regulator is the Manitoba Gaming Control Commission

New Brunswick

  • Only two land-based casinos available
  • Video Lottery Terminals are popular in the province, in addition to international casinos
  • Regulated by New Brunswick Lotteries and Gaming Corporation

Newfoundland

  • No land-based casinos but Video Lottery Terminals available
  • International online casinos available
  • All activities regulated by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC)

Nova Scotia

  • Atlantic Lottery is partnered with the Nova Scotia Provincial Lotteries and Casino Corporation
  • Several land-based gambling options include lottery, bingo, scratch cards, and more

Ontario

Quebec

  • Quebec is the largest Canadian province and offers some of the best gambling options in Canada
  • Plenty of land-based and online casinos available
  • Gambling regulated by The Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux

Nunavut

  • No casinos or gambling authorities in this predominantly indigenous territory
  • Gambling relatively new but has potential

NW Territories

  • No local land-based casinos
  • Lottery and sports betting available and regulated by Municipal and Community Affairs

Saskatchewan

  • There are eight land-based casinos in Saskatchewan
  • Gaming regulated by the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority and the Indian Gaming Authority

Yukon

  • Only one casino available, but it attracts players from all over the Country
  • Lottery and scratch cards available in the province