Is Online Gambling Legal in Canada?
Online gambling is an exciting pastime, and many Canadians gamble in hopes of winning big. But, is online gambling legal in Canada?
When it comes to gambling in Canada, the laws are pretty lax. In 1985, the Government of Canada gave each province and territory full reign over their gaming laws.
So, the short answer is - yes. Canadians are free to gamble online. However, there are a few factors to keep in mind to ensure you are playing legally.
- The online gambling platform must be run by the province you are located in or
- The online casino must be located outside of Canada
At this time, there are still no specific regulations directly related to online gambling, and Canadian law does not directly prohibit online gambling, but, they are required to be licensed or owned by a provincial government if the company is located in Canada.
Some provinces and territories provide government-operated online casinos, and gambling online through these casinos are legal. Playing on any other platform controlled by a company in Canada is considered illegal.
However, the government cannot legislate international gambling websites. Therefore, these sites are not illegal. Players should also ensure they are playing with reputable online casinos that are fully licensed.
There are several licensed Canadian gambling sites to choose from, including Bodog and Sports Interaction. But, Canadians can also play on offshore online gambling sites if they are legal and licensed in their territories.
However, there are 100's if not 1000's of unlicensed (no Canadian license) offshore gambling sites offering services to Canadian players. Out of these 1000's of unlicensed offshore gambling sites, only a handful are safe, trusted, and secure for Canadian players.
But, there are not technically illegal if they are licensed and legal in other territories. As of today, we have never seen any Canadian citizens punished for gambling using offshore, legal, and licensed online betting sites.
But, to be safe, we recommend playing on internationally recognised and trusted brands such as 888Sport, Unibet, William Hill, bet365, and other sites that accept Canadian players and Canadian Dollars.
How are Canada’s Gambling Laws Regulated?
Throughout most of Canada's history, most forms of gambling were illegal or restricted, up until the 1970s, where drastic changes were introduced into legislation.
In the 70s, the Canadian government changed the criminal code by regionalizing the gambling laws. Instead of regulating the gambling markets on a state level, the reformed criminal code allowed individual provinces within Canada to license and regulate gambling in their regions, which ultimately lead to domestic casinos, lotteries, sports betting shops & racing courses throughout the country.
Following the instruction by the government, each province created a governing body that looked at gambling laws. At the time of writing this article, the law is still the same, and various provinces still create laws that guide sports betting, online casino and many other gambling-related activities.
However, on a country level, it is the Canadian Gaming Commission that regulates the entire sector. It bridges the communication gap between the government, the media, the gambling sector, and the general public.
The gambling sector generates huge revenue for the government. Not only that, games like lotteries also generate income for religious and charity organizations. This is why provincial laws were created to regulate revenue and allow online gambling to thrive and contribute to the entire sector.
But, it is important to note that there is nothing in the Canadian criminal code that restricts or prevents players from accessing online gambling sites that are located offshore. It only refers to "Common gaming/betting houses" but nothing specific that refers to online gambling.
For all intents and purposes, Canadian gambling laws allow online gambling at offshore sites, but we still recommend only joining legal and trusted operators that hold valid gambling licences in other territories.
Online Gambling Laws in Each Canadian Region
Each province and territory has its own regulations governing online gambling. Here is a breakdown of the current gaming laws in each region.
British Columbia Gambling Laws
Technically, PlayNow.com is the only legal online gambling site in British Columbia (BC). However, there is nothing stated in the law that makes offshore casinos illegal. Therefore, residents of BC can:
- Play online at PlayNow.com
- Play at online casinos that are legally licenced and are not physically present in Canada
The online casino must not have any physical presence in Canada. This was highlighted in BC in 2001. BC Courts found an online gaming provider guilty of offering illegal services. Although the company was licensed in Antigua, they had an office in Vancouver, BC. This physical presence within the province made their online gambling illegal.
To avoid breaking any Canadian laws, offshore casinos should also adhere to BC’s gambling regulations. This includes age restrictions.
In British Columbia, all players must be 19 years or older.
Alberta Gambling Laws
The Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission (AGLC) regulates all gambling in Alberta. The AGLC operates an online gambling site called Play Alberta. Gambling on this government-regulated site is 100% legal. As well, Alberta is a member of the Western Canada Lottery Corporation (WCLC). Therefore, any online games offered by this corporation are also legal.
The Western Canada Lottery Corporation is an organization that is authorized to control gambling-related activities on behalf of its member. Members include:
- Yukon Territory
- Northwest Territories
In Alberta, there is no law regulating international gambling sites. Therefore, gambling on these sites is not illegal.
To legally gamble on a website that is not run by the AGLC of WCLC, the site should:
- Be located outside of Canada
- Follow Alberta’s gaming regulations, including age restrictions
In Alberta, players must be 18 years or older.
Saskatchewan Gambling Laws
Saskatchewan also has a government-operated online gaming site. Sask Lotteries is considered the only legal form of online gambling in the province.
Saskatchewan is also a member of the Western Canada Lottery Corporation (WCLC). As such, games administered by the WCLC are also legal. Unfortunately, to date, only sports betting games are offered by the WCLC. These games are provided on the Sport Select website.
However, Saskatchewan cannot legally regulate online gambling sites located overseas. Therefore, it is not technically illegal for residents to engage in other forms of online gambling. No laws are being broken as long as the website meets the following criteria:
- It is operated by Sask Lotteries or the WCLC
- The online casino is controlled by a company overseas
In Saskatchewan, players must be 19 years or older to play.
Manitoba Gambling Laws
The Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Corporation manages all gambling in the province. Manitoba has adopted BC’s online gambling platform, Playnow.com, as their official site. Players in Manitoba can legally gamble online using this website. In addition, Manitoba allows residents to legally gamble online using platforms administered by the WCLC.
Much like the other provinces and territories, Manitoba does not have any laws regulating international online casinos.
Therefore, if residents of Manitoba wish to gamble online they must do so using
- An international site that does not expressly promote themselves in Canada
- British Columbia Lottery Corporation’s Playnow.com
- Games offered by the Western Canada Lottery Corporation
All other online gambling is considered illegal.
Players must be 18 years or older to gamble in Manitoba.
Ontario Gambling Laws
Although online gambling falls within a grey area of the law, it is not illegal in Ontario. In fact, Ontario has its own government-run online casino - PlayOLG.ca. The site was announced by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) in January 2015. Here, Ontario residents can legally play online games.
The grey area of the law means that players in Ontario can also play on international online casinos. No online gambling laws are broken as long as players play:
- On an online casino that is based outside of Canada
- On Ontario’s government-run PlayOLG site
In Ontario, a player must be 19 years or older to gamble.
Québec Gambling Laws
Loto-Québec runs the only provincially regulated online gambling platforms in Québec. These websites (Espacejeux and Mise-O-Jeu) are considered the only legal form of online gambling in the province. However, offshore sites are not regulated.
In response to increased gaming on online casinos outside of Canada, the province attempted to blacklist offshore platforms. However, in July 2018, the Supreme Court found this legislation to be unconstitutional. Therefore, players in Québec are now free to use any online gaming platform as long as it is:
- Run by the province
- Operated by an offshore company
Players in Québec must be 18 years or older.
New Brunswick Gambling Laws
There is no provincially-operated online casino in New Brunswick. However, the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) offers government-regulated sports betting via their online website Proline-Stadium.
The Atlantic Lottery Corporation oversees gambling in the four Atlantic provinces of Canada including:
- New Brunswick
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
- Newfoundland and Labrador
To date, there are no laws in New Brunswick that regulate online gambling offered by sites overseas. Therefore, residents can legally gamble on online casinos, as long as they are located outside of Canada.
To gamble safely online in New Brunswick, players should ensure that the online casino they are using is:
- Located outside of Canada
- Licensed by a reputable international agency
To gamble in the province of New Brunswick, players must be 19 or older.
Nova Scotia Gambling Laws
The government of Nova Scotia does not regulate international gambling. The same is true for the Canadian government in general. Therefore, gambling on international sites is not illegal.
Much like the residents of New Brunswick, those in Nova Scotia are free to gamble online using:
- Any site regulated by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation
- Online casinos located internationally
Players must be 19 or older to gamble in Nova Scotia.
Prince Edward Island Gambling Laws
Along with the other four Atlantic provinces, gambling in Prince Edward Island (PEI) is governed by the ALC. Residents can legally gamble using any site run by this government organization.
PEI residents can also play on international online casinos. As long as the online platform adheres to the following regulations, residents of this province are free to participate.
- The online casino has no physical location on Canadian soil
- The platform does not explicitly advertise to Canadian residents
To gamble in PEI, players must be 19 or older.
Newfoundland and Labrador Gambling Laws
Interestingly, Newfoundland and Labrador does not have any physical government-operated casinos. While lottery tickets, scratch tickets and sports betting are legal, physical casinos are not. Casinos can be found on First Nations land, however, as this restriction does not apply.
As an Atlantic Province, the ALC regulates gaming in Newfoundland and Labrador. Therefore, online gambling provided by the ALC is legal.
That being said, international online casinos are not illegal. Residents of Newfoundland and Labrador can freely join and gamble on any overseas casino. To ensure legitimate online gambling, players should:
- Only play on sites regulated by international bodies
- Play on secure and recognized sites
Players in Newfoundland and Labrador must be 19 to gamble.
Nunavut Gambling Laws
The Nunavut Lottery Act and Regulations is the governing legislation for gambling in Nunavut. Like Newfoundland and Labrador, no physical casinos exist in Nunavut. But this does not mean that gambling is illegal. In fact, there are several lottery games hosted by the NW Territories and Nunavut Lotteries Commission. As well, charitable organizations can be approved to host gambling activities like Bingo.
When it comes to online gambling, Nunavut does not have its own government-run website. However, the territory is a member of the Western Canada Lottery Corporation. Therefore, residents can legally gamble online using any site operated by the WCLC.
Residents of Nunavut can also gamble online using overseas sites. Local and federal governments in Canada cannot legislate international online casinos, therefore they are not illegal.
To ensure no Canadian gambling laws are broken, players should make sure that:
- The online casino is run by an international organization
- The organization has no physical location in Canada, including servers
- The gambling website is licensed and regulated overseas
To gamble in Nunavut, players must be 19 or older.
Northwest Territories Gambling Laws
There are no physical casinos in the Northwest Territories. As well, the territory does not offer any online gambling site run by their government. However, as a member of the Western Canada Lottery Corporation, residents can legally gamble online using the websites managed by the WCLC.
People in the territory can also gamble online using international websites. These sites are not illegal, given that they:
- Have a license to operate
- Are not located in Canada
Gambling in the Northwest Territories requires players to be 19 or older.
Yukon Territory Gambling Laws
While the Yukon government does not provide any online gambling services, the territory is a member of the Western Canada Lottery Corporation. Therefore, residents can gamble online legally using any services provided by the corporation.
There are no laws in the Yukon that prohibit residents from gambling online using international sites. It is not illegal to play on these sites, given that they:
- Are located overseas
- Do not directly promote themselves to Canadians
To gamble in the Yukon, players must be 19 or older.
Legal Canadian Gambling Age
To legally gamble in Canada, you must be 19 years old, except in Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec where you can gamble from the age of 18. The age requirement applies to all forms of gambling including both domestic (land-based casinos, lotteries, etc) and online gambling websites (both offshore and domestic).
Do You Pay Tax on Gambling Winnings in Canada?
Your winnings from online gambling accomplishments are not taxable as long as it isn't considered full-time employment for you.
What this means is that your winnings from online casino games won't be taxed if you're playing for fun (entertainment).
Meanwhile, it is illegal to operate an online casino in Canada without a license. So as a game enthusiast, ensure to register with a registered vendor and stay away from those that are not registered by trustworthy authority.
Is It Legal to Bet on Sports in Canada?
Overall, Canadian betting laws are outdated and need refreshing, but, it is legal to bet on sports on domestically licenced betting sites such as Sports Interaction, as well as offshore licensed sports betting sites such as bet365.
But, the laws do state that players should not gamble using illegal betting "houses" or casinos, which is why we only recommend using sports betting sites that have a valid Canadian gambling licence, or a valid offshore gambling licence.
However, you are legible to place parlay-style bet i.e. wagers that have multiple bets in most provinces. The downside for parlays is that the odds are low compared to single bets.
Sports betting with real money in Canada is not a crime, therefore allowing offshore sportsbooks to leverage the lack of laws in this area and profit from it. In Canada, basketball and hockey are the two most widely wagered sports among Canadian sports bet enthusiasts.
Another emerging gambling product that isn’t regulated in Canada is the Fantasy sport. A lot of people love to play the fantasy league which is offered by numerous websites by selecting their favourite teams.
Lottery and Bingo Laws in Canada
In Canada, sports betting and casino games are the most played for gamble enthusiasts. However, a huge number of people prefer playing bingo and lottery games.
Meanwhile, the laws on lotteries are controlled on the province level and in each province, there are local games available. Due to some specific exclusions, the provincial regime has launched a national lottery with prizes up to eight-figures.
Canadian gambling laws allow you to purchase lottery tickets online via a computer or a mobile device. You can also register for an online account and subscribe to as many draws as you want without going to a retail store to purchase the ticket.
Bingo games are declining at the moment because lots of bingo halls have shut down due to the covid-19 pandemic.
Alternatively, the emergence of the online bingo platform has become a timely replacement of the traditional bingo halls with the operators offering various games like online slot games, video poker, and many others.
What Does the Future Hold?
The Canadian lawmakers have begun proceedings to amend the criminal code (sports betting) with Bill C-218 to allows bet enthusiasts to legally bet on single games among other amendments. Discussion is still ongoing as the covid-19 pandemic has stalled the process.
Overall, online gambling is a choice, however, we recommend playing responsibly on legal, safe and trusted operators.
For any gambling law that you break, you could get a 2-year jail time and if you own a betting house illegally, you could get a $5,000 fine and 6 months jail time.
Legal Canadian Gambling Sites
The gambling sites below were either founded in Canada, or by Canadians. Of course, there is an increased focus on Canadian players, sports, and payment methods, but, it can be hard to compete with the powerhouses from Europe.
Sports Interaction - Founded in 1997, Sports Interaction is one of the only legal and licensed Canadian gambling sites which offers sports, poker, casinos, and slots. Sports Interaction is licensed and regulated by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, and operated by Mohawk Online Limited.
Bodog - Bodog is one of the most popular Canadian gambling companies, providing a top-tier gambling product since 1994. Canadians can gamble on sports, poker, or casino games and tables on Bodog. But, Bodog is also an offshore gambling site with the company registered and licensed in the Caribbean Nation of Antigua.
The Kahnawake Gaming Commission
The Kahnawake Gaming Commission is a regulatory body in Canada that is in charge of both land-based (in Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake) and online gambling sites. It has been continuously licensing and regulating a wide range of online casinos and sports betting sites since 1999.
The Kahnawake Gaming Commission has the power to license and regulate gaming and gaming-related activities that are conducted within and from the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake.
At present, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission has over 20 operators with licences including the companies behind Sports Interaction, Spin Sports, & Spin Casino to name a few.