Online Casino Canada – Legal or Not?

Philipp McGee

 

Expert

 

In this article, we take a look at the legal status of online gambling in Canada. We discuss the legality of offshore casino sites in the country, as well as gambling industry legislation at provincial level. And though it is a complicated topic, we seek to answer the question, “are online Casinos in Canada actually legal”?

Legal Status of Online Gambling in Canada

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Online gambling laws in Canada are notoriously unclear, but don’t worry. If you want to get involved with popular forms of gambling, using offshore online casino or gaming sites, you will be fine to do so. Whilst not strictly legal, online gambling in Canada is not illegal either. Please allow us to elaborate…

So Are Canadians Allowed to Play at Offshore Online Sites?

The legal status of online gambling in Canada is murky, but here are the facts:

  • There is no law against online gambling. Canadian players are not at any risk if playing at offshore online gambling sites. The Criminal Code of Canada says nothing about online casino games, or other forms of wagering, being illegal.
  • It is only illegal to operate an online casino in Canada. As soon as the servers for any online gambling site are located in Canada, then we have a problem. The exception is the sovereign territory of Kahnawake, which we will come to later.
  • No Canadian has ever been prosecuted. Canadian players using offshore casino, poker or sports betting websites have never found themselves in legal trouble before. Whether gambling for fun or professionally, it is yet to happen. And that’s because online gambling is not explicitly illegal.

Safe and Legal Online Casino Sites in Canada

Hopefully this article about the legal status of online gaming in Canada will help you to fully understand the gambling laws in Canada. But if you still have any doubts, you can always fall back on these examples of legal online casino sites that can be used in the country. Not only are they fully regulated, but they are also great examples of gaming sites which are proven to be safe and secure:

Canadian Online Gambling – A Legal “Grey Area”

Unlike in the neighbouring United States, where the federal government laws around offshore gambling sites are very clear, Canada has no such law. The Criminal Code of Canada says nothing about real money gambling online, at either domestic or international casinos. As such, online gaming in the country is not explicitly legal. But then neither is it illegal! So for the time being, if you live in Canada, gambling with offshore casino or gaming sites is not going to land you in any trouble.

On the other hand, the Criminal Code of Canada does explicitly say that you cannot be found in an illegal betting house. But this is not referring to online gambling activities, only to land based gambling. If you were caught gambling at offshore sites, it is highly unlikely that anything would happen from a legal perspective.

Who Regulates Gambling in Canada?

The gambling laws in Canada were reformed by the government in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Since then, the various provincial governments are allowed to regulate and license gambling within their own regions. As such, many of the provincial gaming authorities now operate fully legal lottery, sports betting and even casino games, both online and land based. Though it’s worth noting that these online casinos offered by provincial governments do not offer the same quality or range of games as offshore operators.

Provincial Regulators and Gaming Authorities

Each of the different Canadian provinces has its own local regulatory body to handle local gaming laws. These are as follows:

Province Regulator
Ontario Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation
Alberta Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission
British Columbia British Columbia Lottery Corporation
Manitoba Liquor and Gaming Commission of Manitoba
Saskatchewan Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority
New Brunswick New Brunswick Gaming Control
Nova Scotia Alcohol, Gaming, Fuel and Tobacco Division Service of Nova Scotia
Québec Loto Québec
New Foundland Service NL
Prince Edward Island Prince Edward Island Lotteries Commission

Kahnawake Gaming Commission

The laws around online gambling may be unclear, but one element that is very well defined is around the operation of a casino in the country. The law is very clear when it states that it is only legal for the Government or its provinces to operate any form of gambling. So if servers are hosted in the country, the operator would be in breach of the regulations. But there is one major exception to this.

The Kahnawake Mohawk Territory operates as a sovereign entity. Pioneers of early internet gambling, the territory runs various legal internet gambling activities through the the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, which was created back in 1996. Many online casinos favoured this pioneering KGC license, though in more recent times operators have tended to prefer European regulators, such as the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA).

Kahnawake Gaming Commission

Malta Gaming Authority

Although it goes without saying that Malta is not in Canada, many popular offshore casinos enjoyed by Canadians are regulated by the MGA. Examples include 21.com and JustSpin Casino, which are both owned by BP Group Limited and registered with the MGA license number MGA/B2C/203/2011. If an online gambling site is regulated by the MGA, you can be sure that it is safe and secure. The MGA has emerged in the last 15 to 20 years as the premier regulatory body in the gaming industry. Here are some of the key reasons why:

  • Global reputation – With an international name that is associated with being at the forefront of the industry, legal casinos with an MGA license carry a lot of respect and credibility.
  • Player protection – One of the core MGA aims is to protect players. This is from a responsible gambling perspective (safeguarding minors, problem gamblers etc) but also includes standing up for players, protecting player funds and keeping crime out of online gambling.
  • Regularly updated, tested and ahead of the game – One of the MGA’s key visions is to continually adapt to the regulatory framework to needs of the market and remain ahead of the curve in terms of gambling technology.

What to Consider When Looking For Legal Casino

In addition to whether or not the casino is properly licensed, you must look into what payment options are available to you and how safe they might be. You need to consider whether or not the games are fair and safe to play. And you may also wish to look at what responsible gambling measures are in place.

How do Canadian Gamblers Know Their Funds Will Be Safe?

In truth, there is not much reason to worry about your funds when playing at an online casino. If you are intending to play at legal online casinos that hold a proper license, from a respected industry regulator, there is not much to fear. You can legally deposit to and withdraw money from casinos like this. And any properly licensed casino will ring fence player funds, so that they are protected in case of disaster. Even if the casino went out of business, you should still see your money returned.

Real Money Transactions at Online Casinos

You can transact at the majority of online casino sites in Canada using the following safe and legal payment methods. They are used for both deposits and withdrawals:

  • Visa – Probably the most trusted payment provider in the world, used by most legal casinos
  • Mastercard – Founded in 1966, a globally respected, fully legal payment method
  • Neteller – Found on most casino and gaming sites and has been since 1999
  • Skrill – Trusted by gaming sites since 2001, when it was known as Moneybookers
  • Interac – This interbank network has been used in Canada for nearly 40 years now
  • iDebit – Enables secure payments without the need for a credit card
  • Paysafecard – This trusted prepaid card has been around for more than 20 years
  • Trustly – Safely facilitating Canadian transactions online since 2008

Which Canadian Banks Allow Online Gambling Transactions?

There are several banks in Canada that allow players to make real money, online gambling transactions. Most of them even allow players to make deposits and withdrawals to offshore casino sites.

  • Royal Bank Of Canada
  • Toronto-Dominion Bank
  • Canadian Imperial Bank Of Commerce
  • Bank Of Montreal
  • Bank Of Nova Scotia

Fast Q&As

Are Casino Games Fair?

We can be 100% certain that online casino games are completely fair, as long as the casino has the necessary credentials. Follow these steps before reading our casino reviews and playing online for real money, to give yourself peace of mind:

  1. Look for the casino’s license. A safe and legal online casino will always display their license number. This can be compared against the official website of the relevant industry regulator. if they are fully licensed and regulated, it’s almost impossible to be cheating.
  2. Make sure games are RNG certified. All casino games must be certified by third party testing bodies, to ensure that they are safe, fair and totally random. Laboratories like eCOGRA and GLI set global standards for professionalism and transparency.
  3. Read the rules. This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many players do not! Checking game rules, as well as the terms and conditions attached to casino bonuses, will help you spot red flags. Some bonus requirements can be extremely unfair.

If you have any doubts in your mind, stick to playing at known, trusted sites, such as NeonVegas.

Responsible Gaming Resources for Canadians

Responsible Gambling in Canada

When we think about safe online casinos, we shouldn’t just be thinking about whether or not the games are fair, or if our personal or financial data is going to be secure. Keeping people safe also includes the responsible gambling element. Online casinos are required by law to make sure that vulnerable people are protected. Examples of vulnerable people might include those below the legal age for gambling, or people who might potentially have a gambling problem.

All properly regulated online gambling sites are required to offer player protection controls, such as time outs, deposit limits or Self-Exclusion programs. But if setting your own limits is not enough and your gambling is out of control, you may need further help. If you are concerned about your gambling habits, or those of someone else in your family, fear not. There are wealth of resources available to help problem gamblers in Canada. Examples include:

  • problemgambling.ca – provides several self-help tools for problem gamblers
  • responsiblegambling.org – lists toll free help lines for each individual province
  • getgamblingfacts.ca – resources from the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba
  • camh.ca – the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health offers problem gambling resources

According to a study on the subject of problem gambling in Canada, 0.6% of the 18+ population were found to be problem gamblers in 2018. A further 2.7% were categorized as “at-risk gamblers”. This number actually represents a decrease of 45% since 2002.

Security and Data Protection in Legal Online Casinos

All legal casinos in Canada will be looking after your personal data. Whether it’s using 128-bit SSL encryption to protect your card details and personal data, or it’s carrying out ID validation checks to ensure that you really are who you say you are. Offshore online casinos and gaming sites are no different either. If they are properly regulated by a body such as the MGA, you can be sure that they will be applying the highest industry standards of security and data protection.

How Many Canadians Regularly Gamble?

The most popular form of gambling in Canada is undoubtedly the lottery, where it’s believed that 65% of adults participate. According to the NASPL, more than $8.8 billion was spent by players on lottery games in the country’s various provinces. The province of Québec alone is responsible for 22% of lottery activity. The next most popular with local players is scratch cards, with 36% of adults believed to be taking part. Then come the casino players, with a 22% participation rate.

Legality of Other Forms of Online Gambling in Canada

Just like with internet casinos, the legal status of online gambling in general is unclear. The laws do not say that any form of online gaming, whether it’s casino, poker or sports betting, is not allowed. And if there is no law against playing internet casino games, poker or using sports betting sites, then you cannot get into any trouble.

Future Legal Developments

What does thefuture of internet gamblinglook like for Canadians? In truth, it’s hard to say. The government has not shown any real appetite to bring in legislation that would fully open up the web-based gambling space and allow completely legal online casinos and gaming sites. The country’s focus appears to be on other matters at the moment, notably drugs and more recently, a certain virus. But there is also the issue of the provincial regulators losing out on revenue, since they would not be able to compete with the vastly superior offering of the offshore gaming operators.

Summary

Philip McGee

Casino Expert

 

Since government legislation in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Canadian gambling laws have loosened and become somewhat murky. Although domestic gambling is regulated at provincial level, ensuring that some forms of online gambling are completely legal, the situation with international offshore casino sites is much less clearly defined. However, due to the grey area, it remains safe for players in Canada to use online casino and gaming sites.

FAQ

Can you gamble online legally in Canada?

Yes. The Criminal Code of Canada says nothing about online gaming activities in the country, only land based casinos. And since there is nothing in Canadian law about online gaming, no players from Canada have ever been prosecuted for taking part in offshore casino games, poker or sportsbook. So whilst there are gambling laws concerning land based casinos, there are no government laws stating that online casinos are illegal. In addition, each of the provinces has their own provincial regulator, many of which operate a limited selection of online casino games, lottery draws and other activities.

Can I legally deposit and withdraw money to online casinos?

Yes, absolutely. Many local banks support online gambling transactions, both with domestic gaming sites and international, offshore operators. A wide range of deposit and withdrawal options are available, including well-known, safe and trusted options like Visa, Mastercard, Interac and Neteller.

Is Online Poker Legal in Canada?

There is no government legislation against playing online poker. The only laws that speak against gambling activities found in the Criminal Code of Canada, state that it is illegal to operate a casino in the country and that it is not allowed to be found in an illegal gaming den.

Is Sports Betting Legal in Canada?

Just like with casino games, lottery or poker, there is no government legislation explicitly stating that sports betting is not legal. No Canadian players have ever been prosecuted for using offshore sports betting or casino gaming sites. Further, each individual province is allowed to regulate gambling laws within its own jurisdiction. As a result, many of the provinces operate their own real money gaming sites, which Canadian online players can use.

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