Gambling laws in Canada may be viewed as the various regulations and guidelines regarding betting and related activities. Canada is a gambling hub in many ways, from land-based gambling to online gambling as well as gambling beyond the confines of the country’s borders. Canada’s gambling laws are enshrined under the Criminal Code.
Incidentally, this code has branded all manner of gambling activities, including any game or competition that is purely a game of luck like the lottery, as being illegal! So what does this mean for the Canadian gambling industry? Well, being a federal state, all legal gambling in Canada falls under the mandate of the provinces and territories. So, while gambling in some form is allowed throughout Canada, the regulations differ from one province or territory to another.
Is online gambling in Canada legal?
As mentioned earlier each province and territory in Canada has its own gambling regulations. This has been achieved by each province appointing an agency as a gaming regulator, with an independent, government-controlled body managing gaming for the government. Although many forms of gambling are allowed, online gambling Canada activities are not if the casino is physically located in Canada.
Players looking for some online action have to rely on sites that are located offshore for them to be on the right side of the law. For this to be safe, players should only use trusted casinos, which have licensed certificates and are regulated by reputable independent authorities. The other option for those within Canada’s borders is to play games licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, a regulatory body in the sovereign Kahnawake Mohawk Nation.
How to recognize a safe casino when gambling in Canada
• Check the Licensing Certificate
• Are Independent Auditors used?
• Are there security protocols in place for Data Protection
• Gaming Integrity and Fairness
Well, after reading the information above, you are probably left wondering: Is Gambling in Canada safe? Not to worry, this review gives tips on how to tell between a safe and a not so safe casino. First, a safe casino is certified by a recognised licensing authority. For offshore sites, the most popular include the Malta Gaming Authority or the UK Gambling Commission.
These bodies have regulations that sites have to adhere to, thus ensuring gaming integrity and fairness. With these licenses however it is also important that these sites are constantly audited by independent regulators like eCOGRA. This ensures that the RNGs are running smoothly.
Data shared between these sites and players also needs to be protected. Therefore, be sure to check on the data encryption protocols, such as using SSL, employed by a site.
Breaking Down Regulations Regarding Gambling in Canada
To put it simply, online gambling in Canada is legal as long as the casino site of choice is based offshore. While the Criminal Code is the one that defines gambling at the national level, provinces and territories have their own legislation that regulates gambling and other gambling-related activities.
It is possible to find a safe casino in Canada but you should familiarise yourself with the prevailing laws before engaging with one. Also, because there are no laws explicitly governing gambling sites that are offshore, it’s important for players to make a point of protecting themselves, first by researching the safety of their casino of choice.
For permitted land-based casinos, it is also important to be aware of the restrictions governing access to these casinos on the basis of age.
The Canadian Criminal Code
The Canadian Criminal Code is the one that governs gambling activities at a federal level. This Code comes in various sections, namely found in sections 201-207. Sections 201-206 are the ones that make all forms of luck-based lotteries, betting and gambling, illegal with a few exemptions such as pari-mutuel gambling on horse races. Section 207 is the one that provides relief by permitting provincial governments to manage lottery schemes.
Provinces and Territories also have their own regulations governing gambling activities. Examples include the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act or the Northwest Territories Lotteries Act. Due to the prevailing conditions of the Criminal Code and Provincial gambling statutes, licensing in Canada is set up differently. So, for example, Casinos are not given licenses but instead are registered to provide gaming services to a province.
Gambling in Canada: The Kahnawake Gaming Commission
Established in 1996, The Kahnawake Gaming Commission is a unique gaming regulatory authority mandated with the powers and responsibilities to grant licences and control web-based casinos, online poker as well as sportsbook sites. Located in the Kahnawake Mohawk Nation, a sovereign Indian Reservation, the commission is not under the restrictions of Canadian law and, therefore, can regulate offshore online gaming sites.
At the onset, the Commission was the go-to licensing agency with a number of the older products from developers such as Microgaming, holding their license. Recently, however, it is not in good standing with quite a number of e-gaming casinos that now prefer offshore licensing from Malta or the UK. Essentially The Kahnawake Gaming Commission can run a casino or license the operation of online casinos from within Canada without going against Canadian laws.
The future of Gambling in Canada
Knowing what the future holds for gambling in Canada is hard to predict. At the moment, the Canadian government seems more concerned with other more threat prone legislative areas. The relief for players, however, is that the government does not seem to be interested in streamlining the laws further to prohibit Canadians outright from gambling at offshore sites.
With the current prevailing differences between provincial gambling laws, the future could probably mean a harmonised statute governing gambling among the provinces and territories, but it is currently at a ‘wait and see’ stage. It is also important to note that in 2019, the overall turnover at offshore casinos was CAN$392 million, meaning that the government is currently losing lots of revenue. This could probably force a change in its stance.
Provincial Laws Governing Gambling in Canada
• Section 207 of the Criminal Code
• Consumer Protection Acts
• The Lieutenant Governor in council
• Registration to Provide Gambling Services
As explained earlier, provinces and territories have the power to regulate gambling thanks to section 207 of the Criminal Code. This section exclusively gives provincial governments control over gambling activities in their jurisdictions. It also legalises lotteries that are run by charitable and religious organisations as long as they are licensed by the Lieutenant Governor in council.
In essence, each province has its own gambling principles such as The Quebec Act Respecting Lotteries, Publicity Contests and Amusement machines and The Yukon Lottery Licensing Act. Furthermore, provinces also look at protecting consumers of various product, including gamblers, through consumer protection laws such as The Ontario Consumer Protection Act. It is also prudent to stress the important fact that in the provinces, casinos are not given licenses but are registered instead, to provide gaming services to the province.