When you think of online gambling in North America, it’s easy to get bogged down with the often complex rules and regulations in the United States. However, what about north of the border, in Canada?
Although Canadians are culturally fairly similar to their American neighbours, enjoying online betting and gambling, there are still differences between the two countries – play here today.
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So how does the planet’s second biggest nation regulate online betting?
Starting at the beginning
If we’re really going to start at the beginning, we should go right back to the end of the 19th century and highlight some clear dates that changed the course of the Canadian gambling laws.
- 1892 – The Criminal Code outlaws gambling under the section “offences against religion, morals, and public conveniences”
- 1970 – The Criminal Code is altered to allow for lotteries that raise funds for worthwhile causes
- 1976 – Sports lotteries are introduced
- 1985 – The Canadian government relinquishes control to the provinces, which cover computer, video devices, slot machines, and horse racing wagering over the phone.
So when the Canadian government decided to decentralise all gambling legislation by changing the Criminal Code, betting in the Great White North changed forever.
Now, the regulation of Canadian gambling markets is conducted within each province, from British Columbia in the west to Newfoundland in the east.
This means that each province establishes its own governing body which deals with gambling legislation. However, the Canadian Gaming Commission is the regulatory body that oversees the entire industry at national level.
What are the Criminal Codes?
If you’re not sure what the Criminal Codes are, they essentially deal with a wide array of illegal gambling offences within Canada. However, the following are the most common:
- Section 201 – Includes a large number of offences, but the most common involves keeping a common gaming or betting house.
- Section 202 – Deals with illegal betting, book-making, and pool-selling.
- Section 206 – Offences related to lotteries and other games of chance.
- Section 209 – Cheating at games of chance with the intent to defraud either the customer or house.
Decentralising gambling legislation
This reformed Criminal Code which happened in 1970 opened up gambling by allowing the individual provinces within Canada to regulate and licence gambling in their own regions. This led to the development of a number of land-based casinos as well as lotteries run by the provincial gaming authorities.
List of provincial gaming authorities
- Ontario – Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation
- Alberta – Alberta Gaming & Liquor Corporation
- British Columbia – BCLC
- Manitoba – Liquor & Gaming Commission of Manitoba
- Saskatchewan – Saskatchewan Liquor & Gaming Authority
- New Brunswick – New Brunswick Gaming Control
- Nova Scotia – Alcohol, Gaming, Fuel & Tobacco Division Service of Nova Scotia
- Quebec – Loto Quebec
- Newfoundland – Service NL
- Prince Edward Island – Prince Edward Island Lotteries Commission
It’s sometimes tough for people in the UK to comprehend that there wouldn’t be one nationwide law for the whole country. It’s strange to imagine the gambling rules in Cornwall being different from those in Cumbria.
However, this is how it operates in the United States and Canada, with more power being devolved to provincial or state level.
In short, licenced online casinos are legal in Canada, but it’s illegal to run an online casino without a licence.
Lastly, to date, no Canadian has ever been prosecuted for playing on an online gaming site, and Canadians are not at any legal risk for doing so.