Is online gambling legal in Canada?
There are more than enough webpages claiming to answer this very
question. Some go on and on with legal jargon, quoting different
verses of the Criminal Code. Others answer with uncertainty, leaving
players scratching their heads. This one is going to make is short
and sweet, with the truth, and nothing but the truth.
Let me start out with the super-short version. Online gambling is
legal here in Canada. You can play for real money online with any
gambling website that’s willing to take your deposit, and there
isn’t a darn thing the government can or will do about it. Why?
Because it’s not illegal. Some sites are better than others, more
respected and reputable than others, but you can lawfully play at any
one that accepts your bets – plain and simple.
If you want to know more about why it’s legal, and why some online
casinos won’t accept your bets, please keep reading.
Canadian Online Casinos and the Law
The Criminal Code says – in Layman’s terms, mind you – that any
gambling operation with a physical presence in Canada is illegal,
unless it is licensed and authorized by the province or
territory in which is located. That means that, if the operation is
in Ontario, it’s only legal if Ontario’s government says it’s
legal. If it’s in Nunavut, the Nunavut government must authorize
it. If the province or territory does not authorize it, it’s
The important thing here is in the first sentence of the paragraph
above – “physically located”. International online
casinos are not physically located in Canada. They are located
offshore. So long as they don’t have an office or server running on
Canadian soil, the Canadian government has no jurisdiction over them.
Why Do Provinces Say They’re Illegal?
If you’ve ever heard the government of B.C., Ontario or Quebec say
offshore online gambling sites are illegal, that’s a lie. If you
heard them say they’re not regulated, that’s a semi-lie. The
truth is, they are regualted. They just aren’t regulated by the
province that’s calling them unregualted. They could be regulated
by the UK government, or Cypress, or an island nation like Malta,
Gibraltar, or Isle of Man, but they are still regulated.
Why Don’t Some Casinos Accept Canadians?
Some operators only serve residents of the countries they’re
located in. Winamax, for instance, accepts French players
only. These are what we call ‘ring-fenced’ operations. Canada’s
provincial online casinos are ring-fenced too. If you live in Quebec,
you can play at Loto-Quebec’s Espacejeux.com, but you can’t
play at B.C.’s PlayNow, or Ontairo’s PlayOLG. Or,
you can play at any international online casino that welcomes
Canadian players. Those are your legal limitations.
What About International Sportsbooks?
Due to restrictions on single-event betting in Canada, this question
comes up a lot. Online sports betting sites are just as legal as any
other form of online gambling. Again, so long as they’re not
physically located here in Canada, our government has no jurisdiction
over them. We can place single-event bets, parlays, props, and every
other type of wager we want.
The Canadian government is actually reconsidering its stance on
single-event betting – not just because international sportsbooks
are harvesting billions in Canadian wagers, but because the US is
finally a step ahead of us in this department. For years, we could
bet on sports, but Americans (outside of Nevada) could not. With that
advantage, we became relatively complacent. Now that US laws have
changed, Canadians are demanding equal rights on single-event
Today, we’re closer than ever to getting it. There are laws slowly
working their way through parliament as we speak. But again, if the
laws don’t change, we can still take our wagers to offshore
gambling sites, just as we’ve been doing – within the letter of
the law – for the last 20+ years.
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