Gambling and online gambling are generally legal in Canada. The legal status of gambling and online gambling in Canada are different in each province. In general, it is legal for individual players to play online. However, not all online gambling websites accept players from Canada, because it is illegal to offer gambling services to Canadians if the company is not licensed within the province (you can find a list of online gambling websites, which accept players from Canada below).
This confusion stems from Canada’s political system. The country is divided into ten provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Sasquatchewan) and three territories (Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon). Traditionally, gambling legislation has been under provincial jurisdiction.
This system had been easy to understand: each province had its own laws legalising or banning casinos, bingo halls, etc. (the exception is horse racing, which is under federal jurisdiction)*. With the advent of online gambling in Canada, provinces have sought to regulate online gambling as well. Several provinces, including BC, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba have already legalized most forms of online gambling. This system was made more complicated by the various Native American tribes, which decided to get involved in the gambling business and nowadays even in provinces, where gambling is not legal you will find casinos on First Nations reserves (and sometimes online casinos as well, details below).
Licensed gambling operators may only provide services to residents in other provinces if there is an inter-provincial agreement in place. Offshore companies, on the other hand, may not legally allow Canadians to play on their websites. There has been one reported case of an online gambling company prosecuted under Canadian law. Starnet Communications had an office in Vancouver, and though they were licensed in the Caribbeans, Starnet was found to be sufficiently connected to Canada to be prosecuted under its criminal code.**
Offshore gambling operators with no connection to Canada and a valid gambling license that allows to accept players from Canada have not been harassed so far. Nor has there been a legal claim made against Kahnawake, the Mohawk first nations territory bordering Quebec. Kahnawake hosts the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, which was one of the largest licensing and regulating bodies of online gambling and many online gambling companies were and some still are registered there.
To summarize: players are not and can not be prosecuted for online gambling, offshore gambling operators are not prosecuted***, foreign online gambling operators physically located but not licensed in Canada or a specific province can, and have been prosecuted. Foreign online gambling websites are not blocked.
***/The Foreign Operators Principle provides that as long there are no substantial links with Canada, whatsoever, (referred to as a “nexus” by Canadian courts), Canadian authorities have no jurisdiction over these offshore operators, and therefore, cannot enforce Canadian law./
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- Casino gambling in Canada
- Bingo in Canada
- Poker in Canada
- Sports betting in Canada
- Lottery in Canada
- Bitcoin gambling in Canada
Casino gambling in Canada
Online casino gambling in Canada: requires licence
Online casino gambling in Canada is under provincial jurisdiction, and currently legal in all provinces and territories except for Saskatchewan (but even in Saskatchewan, players are free to play online on foreign online gambling websites). Currently British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec even have domestic online casino sites licensed and legally operating within the province. However, even Saskatchewan used to have a domestic online casino. The Northern Bear Casino was operated by the White Bear First Nation, but it closed in 2014 for unknown reasons. Native American tribes are allowed to pass their own gambling and online gambling laws in Canada.
There are no laws banning Canadians from participating in casino games on international websites. There are several online casino sites accepting players from all provinces of Canada.
The following online casinos accept players from Canada:
Bingo in Canada
Online bingo in Canada: requires licence
Online bingo is legal in all provinces and territories in Canada, though Saskatchewan only allows bingo games for a charitable purpose (players from Saskatchewan are free to access foreign online bingo websites). Canadians are free to play bingo on both provincially licensed sites and foreign sites.
There are domestic online bingo sites in Canada in the following provinces: British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec.
The following bingo websites accept players from Canada:
Poker in Canada
Online Poker in Canada: requires licence
Online poker is also legal in Canada. In Saskatchewan, legal online poker is restricted to charitable games, and even then only Texas Hold’em is allowed (this does not apply to foreign online poker websites, only applies to domestic poker websites). Provinces with legal, locally licensed online poker sites are British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec, and video poker in Ontario.
Canadian poker players are free to play on any online poker sites, whether they are licensed in Canada or not. Several international poker sites may be accessed in Canada, most of which are available in French as well as English.
The following online poker sites accept players from Canada:
Sports betting in Canada
Online sports betting in Canada: requires licence
Online sports betting is legal in all provinces of Canada, including Saskatchewan. Residents of all provinces have access to some form of legal online sports betting, the most notable of which is Pro-line. However, the only form of betting allowed are parlay bets, linking together two or more wagers, where all wagers must win for a payout. A bill enabling single-event betting was proposed years ago (Bill C290), but still has not passed.
As a result, Canadian gamblers looking for more variety in online sports betting often turn to international sports betting sites, which are not bound by these limitations. Wagering on such sites is not illegal in Canada (see above), and therefore players are not prosecuted. Available online sports betting sites in Canada include both offshore operators as well as Kawanakhe-based domestic online sports betting sites.
The following online sportsbooks accept players from Canada:
Lottery in Canada
Online lottery in Canada: requires licence
Online lotteries are legal and available in all Canadian provinces and territories. Not all provinces have their own lottery: Quebec and Ontario have their own lotteries, while most other provinces are served by either the West Canadian Lottery Company (WCLC) or the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC).
It is technically illegal for lottery operators not licensed within Canada to offer their services to Canadians, but no steps have been taken to prevent it. It is also completely legal for Canadian residents to purchase lottery tickets from foreign online lottery sites.
The following websites let people from Canada purchase lottery tickets online:
Bitcoin gambling in Canada
Bitcoin gambling in Canada: requires licence
Bitcoin gambling is under provincial jurisdiction, like most other forms of gambling. To date no Bitcoin gambling websites were licensed in Canada.
In addition, Bill C-31 of June 19, 2014 include Bitcoin and all virtual currencies in the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act of 2000. As a result, all Canadian Bitcoin dealers and Bitcoin gambling operators are required to register.*
The following Bitcoin casinos accept players from Canada:
I can not currently recommend any Bitcoin casinos, that would accept players from Canada.
If you have questions or any feedback don’t hesitate to drop a comment below. Please let me know in the comments section if you think we might have gotten something wrong or if you have additional information, clarification about the legal status of online gambling in this country.
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This page is part of Simon’s List – Legal Status of Online Gambling – a definitive guide to the legal status of all forms of online gambling activities in every country around the world.
Last updated: 2016-07-05