When it comes to the legality of online gambling in Canada, there is no straight forward answer. The fact is that it is a complicated issue, a gray area, if you will. In fact, when it comes to gambling laws, it isn’t only Canada where the situation is rather complex, it’s pretty much more or less the same in the rest of the world too.
Land based casinos and gambling in some forms for the most part is legal in Canada. In a nutshell, the same thing can be said for online and internet gaming as well.
However, the laws aren’t exactly clear when it comes to online gambling services which are offered by companies based overseas.
As per the current law, companies cannot lawfully operate online casinos and poker rooms in the nation of Canada. However, ironically, most of the gaming servers used exclusively for online gambling are actually located in the Kahnawake native reserve itself which is most certainly a part of the country. Therefore, it would not be an overstatement to say that even though the law says one thing, what actually happens in Canada is a completely different story, in terms of online gambling.
Is it illegal to play at online gambling websites?
As mentioned, the law states that companies should not operate any illegal online gambling service within Canada. However, it does not specify anything about Canadian players and residents playing such games and partaking in online gambling. Since nothing has been exclusively mentioned about this, it simply means that there is no restriction per se. Therefore, it is not illegal for anyone living in Canada to play at online casinos or even make online sports bets.
The laws do state that players should not be found in an illegal betting house, however, when it comes to online betting houses or casinos, it is simply unreasonable to expect a player to know where the server of the service is located and then determine whether the casino is legal or not as per Canadian law. Therefore, once again, the laws are anything but crystal clear. To give you a perspective, let’s just have you know that never has an online casino player from Canada been arrested for playing at an online casino. According to the Government of British Columbia, anyone 19 years or older may gamble in the state at casinos, horse racing tracks, bingos, and lottery retailers, while the BC Lottery Corporation manages and conducts all commercial gambling including online gambling.
The history of gambling legality in Canada
Like with any other country, casinos and gambling in Canada has a long, twisted, complex history. Going back, when it started off, gambling in all its forms was completely legal in Canada. However, in 1892, legislation was passed which made gambling illegal. Initially, the law was straight forward – gambling in all its forms was a big no and there was no two ways about it. However, as the years rolled on by, the laws became a little more relaxed and the coppers just turned a blind eye to some more socially acceptable forms of betting and gambling even though it was technically illegal.
In the early nineteen hundreds, legislation was passed which made the games of Bingo and raffles legal, but only during charity events and charitable settings. Fast forward another ten years and people were betting on race horses, legally. However, one of the biggest turning points came in 1985 when gambling machines such as slot machines were made legal. Legalization of gaming machines meant that there were places you could go to where you could play on these machines, and this paved the way for land based casinos. Not too many years after the legalization of gaming machines, slowly but surely, land based casinos started popping up across the country.
The Criminal Code of Canada
The Criminal Code of Canada is essentially the name given to a piece of legislation which is responsible for defining exactly what is legal and what is illegal in terms of gambling, both online and offline on Canadian soil. Canadian provinces have been vested with the power to grant licenses, revoke licenses and regulate these licenses for both land based casinos as well as online casinos.
Specifically, the regulations which outlaw the certain gaming in Canada may be found under part 7 of the criminal code, and there is more relevant statements regarding gaming which also appear in section 207.
The Kahnawake Gaming Commission
The Kahnawake Gaming Commission, as the name suggests, is a commission which has been entrusted with regulating gaming and like the provinces of Canada, they too have the rights to issue gaming or casino licenses. This commission has the responsibility of regulating online casinos and poker rooms as well.
To be eligible for a gaming license from the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, there are several standards and eligibility criteria which the applying casino must satisfy. The association itself and its powers to regulate are essentially a result of the Canadian governments push to make the legal atmosphere more accepting of gaming and more tolerant of the already thriving Kahnawake Internet gambling communities.
Even though most forms of gambling is now legal in Canada, online gambling is still not completely out of the clutches of the law provided that the Government still refuses to issue local companies to operate web based gaming rooms. However, considering the trend and the history, it is clear that it is only going to be a matter of time before the Government is confronted with the fact that there are plenty of overseas companies that will still reap the benefits of the demand for online casinos amongst Canadian players and so it would actually just be better to allow Canadian companies themselves to start online casinos to serve the country’s growing online gamer base.
The bottom line – even though the law relating to online casinos are murky, there is absolutely no legal issues when it comes to Canadian players who play at online casinos.