Online gaming is a notoriously tricky subject, with questions of legality and participation.
Canada is no exception to this, as online casinos fall under a strange legal issue. While technically they aren’t legal – they are in some circumstances. Plus, they are very popular.
It’s interesting to consider that Canada was very anti-gambling up until the 1960s. But, once the government granted the provinces the legal right to allow gambling activities within their borders, this attitude was reversed. Soon, land-based casinos were being constructed, and lotteries were also established.
The Online Casinos Industry – Legal or Not?
Much like what would potentially happen if the United States were to ever legalize online gambling (and as is the case with a few choice states, such as Nevada and New Jersey), Canada’s rules pertaining to online gambling fall under provincial jurisdiction.
After gaming became legal in 1985, and before the internet, each province set their own laws concerning gambling. Other than horse racing (regulated by the Federal Agriculture Department), each province also later determined how they defined online gambling in the first place.
As a result, over time, each province (save for Saskatchewan) has allowed online gambling in some form. Since 2004, British Columbia has allowed online lottery tickets in sportsbetting, and in 2009, it added poker, online casino games and bingo. Manitoba, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta all followed suit shortly after.
However, none of this relates to online gambling at companies located outside Canada’s borders, which is a much more tricky area to consider.
Online Gambling Based Outside Canada
Offshore gambling sites, typically based in Gibraltar, the UK’s Isle of Man and Cyprus, tend to be willing and accepting of Canadian-based players, many of them top of the line and highly regarded online casinos, for instance the well-known brand 888casino. It is therefore not illegal to play at an offshore casino for Canadians – it’s only illegal if the casino’s servers are located within Canada (as with the landmark legal ruling relating to the native reserve of Kahnawake, where some offshore casinos base their servers). And, if this is indeed the case, it poses a legal grey area, as the Canadian provincial laws may not influence or hold up against the internationally regulated casino-based laws.
Not In The Legal Interest?
Canada’s law enforcement (much like their counterparts worldwide) seems much more preoccupied with more pressing matters, such as preventing terrorism, drugs and so forth, than to put effort into preventing online gambling. Plus, the provinces stand to profit from their online gambling efforts, so as long as the industry sticks to the right side of the law, there is no need to make it a priority. That is, unless more money continues to flow to offshore sites, in which case, it could become an issue. Yet, until that day comes, it seems that online gambling in Canada is in a pretty safe state.
A Better Situation Than In The US
The same cannot be said of the US’ plans to legalize online gambling. Following an initially confusing period after Trump’s election in November, as well as the legalizing of marijuana in four more US states, online gambling in the US looked certainly to be the next in line for legalization. However, due to powerful allies of Trump blocking the legislation, as well as previous bills’ defeat, it seems very unlikely that the US will do so – at least under a Trump Presidency.
Luckily for Canadians, Canada is in a much more stable situation, which looks likely to continue for a while, at the very least.