Everything You Need to Know About Gambling Laws in Canada 2020

True North Casinos Blog Canadian Gambling Laws
by Connor Bergeron | 23/08/2020
Canadian Gambling Laws

From the majestic mountains on the Western coast to the rugged heartlands of lush forests in the East, the gorgeous prairie grasslands, all the way to the freezing Arctic north, Canada is a wondrous land. It is the second biggest nation on the planet and an amazing place where freedom is right at home. When it comes to the freedom of gambling, Canadians can consider themselves quite lucky. Regulators have been permissive when it comes to the gambling legislation in Canada during recent times. The entertaining activity is widely spread and appreciated across the land.

If you would like to learn a few interesting, quick and updated facts on the Canadian gambling laws, read on.

History of Canadian Gambling Laws

Without a doubt, Canada has one of the most intriguing and captivating gambling history tales in the world. It all started when French explorer John Cabot first landed on the East Coast back in the summer of 1497. Historians believe they landed the Matthew ship somewhere in Cape Breton, Newfoundland or Labrador. Cabot didn't come empty-handed; he brought along his playing cards that he and his crew were fond to use during their sailing on the endless sea, making time pass by faster. While this was certainly not the pioneer of a gambling form reaching North America, it is, certainly, of great importance today.

Prior to Cabot reaching Canada, the indigenous people here relied on sticks and bones from deer and other animals to play Lahal, a game drenched in spirituality, with a lot of drum playing and singing that boosted the morale of players. Later on, the European settlement adopted a more conservative attitude towards gambling. Dice games were no longer legal under the British common law. This also included backgammon, a game which Richard III had banned in the 1380s as he believed it to be a distraction for his brave soldiers.

Later on, the first Criminal Code in the country continued to support the legislation. It wasn't until 1999 when the ban was lifted thanks to a special amendment. Up to the fifties, gambling was deemed legal for the most part in the county. However, it was also regarded as a vice that was severely frowned upon. In 1985, Canadian provinces and territories were legally allowed the right to oversee lottery games, as well as charitable forms of gambling and slots. Small-sized casinos outside the law also started to make themselves seen, with the very first

Canadian real money casino opening its gate to the public in Winnipeg, back in 1989. Soon after, the Montreal Casino was built.

The Indigenous people in North America gradually took back a great deal of their dominance in terms of games. They managed to create some of the successful venues there. As in the United States, some First Nations successfully brought gambling to their traditional lands and territories, and there are still Canadian groups that are striving to do expand. Whoever, they require the approval of the government prior to initiating their plans.

Today, Canadians still love to get lost in fun dice, cards and stick and bones games together with friends. Online gambling is also a big part of the history of gambling in Canada, especially since casinos online can be easily accessed via smartphones from remote locations 24/7 or from the comfort of one's home, thus unleashing unprecedented freedom. The country has a rich and lucrative gambling industry that Canadians definitely take great pride in.

In fact, their strong sense of pride has helped them create some of the most favorable, even-handed and transparent gambling laws meant to keep the industry running steadily and growing by the year. For the most part of Canada, gambling laws are equally flexible, but, at the same time, they are designed with the well-being of the public in mind 24/7.

Responsible Gambling in Canada

Being a responsible gambler in Canada means closely following the current legislation and staying up-to-date with the most recent changes, especially when it comes to the rapidly-changing online gambling universe. The Criminal Code of Canada covers a number of gambling activities deemed outside the law which players should be aware of:

  • Section 201 refers to a number of criminal of offenses, mostly in relation to keeping a betting or gaming house

  • Section 202 covers matters such as illegal betting

  • Section 206 refers to lottery-related offenses, as well as other similar games of chance

  • Section 209 targets players and casinos cheating at games of chance with the intent of defrauding the house or players

As of July 2010, these are considered “serious offenses” by the Criminal Code. This means they are indictable under the act of Parliament. At the same time, the federal government does not need to bring the matter before Parliament as an amendment to the current legislation. These offenses usually fall short of the 5-year prison term, which is the maximum for serious offenses in the country. Most of them are limited to two years of jail time. Keeping a common betting house is fined with six months' jail time and $5,000. compared to the US, Canadas' gambling laws are more indulgent and it is all the result of the nation's desire to be more progressive.

Online gambling is a grey area, as the laws do not forbid the online bets. However, punters are asked to use betting platform that has a license or one that is owned by the government of one of the Canadian provinces. Nonetheless, hundreds of offshore websites without a license have opened their virtual gates to players in Canada over the years.

Nonetheless, there are lots of secure, licensed and audited online gambling websites designed with the Canadian player in mind looking for a trustworthy platform to play for free or for real money.

Canadian Gambling Laws in The Ten Provinces

While each of the ten Canadian provinces is an entity that governs itself with the help of lieutenant governors, important changes need to also be reflected in the constitution. In recent years, some Canadian provinces certain introduced their very own casino sites that allow their residents to access domestic gambling solutions, on top of the legal and licensed offshore options they are allowed to use. For instance, British Columbia has created the PlayNow platform online, where residents who live in BC can engage in fun games of lottery online, as well as blackjack, keno, poker, bingo, slots or even place bets on sports. Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and the Atlantic provinces have also created dedicated casino online for residents. Players must be of the legal age to gamble there (either 18 or 19, depending on the province) and they must be residents and follow the provincial regulations. Here are more details below.

Ontario

Ontario is home to 25 land casinos, either run by charitable organizations or private owners. There are also lots of slot machines found at casinos and at the racetracks. In fact, Ontario hosts the largest number of on site slots compared to any other Canadian province. Punters can indulge in horse racing betting facilities in Fort Erie or Ottawa. Whether you are interested in thoroughbred or quarter horse racing, you are going to be happy to know they are found all across Ontario.

If you are into sports betting online or offline, you will need to use the Pro-Line service in order to place your wagers on several sports. Punters must wager on tow games at a minimum and they can make their pick from a plethora of bets.

Lotteries are also on high demand here, with the national lottery and several provincial drawings handled by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. Ontario hosts one of the biggest lottery networks in North America.

Various forms of charitable gambling such as raffles and bingo games are also managed by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. They are also responsible for managing a few virtual bingo platforms online.

PlayOLG is the province's online website that hosts the most popular forms of table and card games, along with virtual slot machines and lotteries. Residents who are 18+ can play the lottery for real money, while residents over the age of 19 are allowed to engage in casino gameplay for real money.  

Quebec

It has been legal to gamble in Quebec since 1970, with the industry continuing to grow and evolve by the year. Today, you can visit any of the land casinos here, which are also popular go-to places for people in New York, Maine or Vermont. All casino gambling activities are supervized by the Quebec Alcohol, Racing, and Gaming Commission.

Horse race betting is available at the race track in Quebec, while Lotto Max and Tout ou Rien (“All or Nothing”) are some of the hottest lotteries available. They are organized every day of the week. Lotteries are the oldest gambling forms in Quebec. There are several online gambling platforms owned by the government players can use, as well as a number of private websites.

Betting on sports and video lottery terminals is also legal and possible in Quebec, with VLTs being an important part of bars and gaming halls. Loto-Quebec also regulates periodical raffles and bingo games and other forms of charitable gaming.

EspaceJeux is the official online gaming website for the residents of Quebec. The platform generously displays lotteries, instant games, slot machines, casino games, sports, poker and bingo options. 

Nova Scotia

Not only a huge fishing and agricultural hub, Nova Scotia is known for being the host of a spectacular gambling industry consisting of: casinos, lotteries, sports and horse racing, VLTs and online gambling.

With only two Nova Scotia casinos in Halifax and Sydney that account for 700 slot machines, dozens of table games and an impressive number of electronic games, all gamblers are prone to walk in happy. Video lotteries are managed by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation and tickets can be bought online or using one of the thousands of retailers spread all across Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia uses the Pro-Line system that allows punters to place their sports wagers. It also hosts horse racing tracks and teletheatres where punters who cannot make it to the tracks can place their wagers. Passionate gamblers can use any of the thousands of legal and licensed offshore to do their gambling. With close to 3,000 VLTs and average prize payout ranging from 93% to 95%, players have reasons to rejoice.

New Brunswick

New Brunswick was the first Canadian province to ever allow residents to use VLTs, with minimum paybacks of 80% and going as high as 93%. Land casinos, horse racing tracks in Saint John, Fredericton, Dieppe or while Great Western Fair, you can expect a lot of action on the tracks. Online gaming, sports bets and lotteries managed by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation are all part of the offers here, together with the hundreds of charitable gaming organizations.

Prince Edward Island

"The Island" counts one major island and many smaller ones, being the smallest province in size in the country. The Lotteries Commission oversees all forms of gaming here since 1976. The island has the lowest gambling scores, with sports betting from Pro-Line, a provincial lottery, horse race tracks and VLTs, unregulated offshore online casinos and licensed bingo and raffles and the Red Shores casino counting hundreds of slots, as well as roulette, Blackjack, private poker rooms and UTH options.

Newfoundland and Labrador

The province does not own any land casinos as of now, even though First Nations tribes are entitled to open facilities here. Residents can still enjoy various forms of charitable games like bingo and raffles via the Department of Government Services, lotteries handled by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation with jackpots running as high as $50 million, St. John’s Racing and Entertainment Centre for horse racing bets, sports betting facilities and VLTs.

Atlantic Provinces

The four provincial governments of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick offer their residents the chance to engage in fun gaming activities via the Atlantic Lottery website. The synergy between the New Brunswick Lotteries and Gaming Corporation, the Lotteries Commission in PEI, the Gaming Corporation on Nova Scotia and Province of Newfoundland and Labrador allows players to enjoy fully legal and top-quality, responsible lottery products. All profits are returned to the Atlantic Canada communities.

Manitoba

The Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba officially oversee all gambling activities in the province: First Nation casinos, casinos owned by the government, thoroughbred and standardbred horse races, lotteries governed by the Western Canada Lottery Corporation and charitable gaming activities such as Calcutta auctions, bingo or Monte Carlo casino nights. VLTs are also managed by the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries, with games like poker, keno and spinning reels accounting as the top games preferred by Canadians. PlayNow is also the official provincial casino online that allows residents to access live poker games, casino games, lotteries and live sports betting 24/7.

British Colombia

For several decades, The British Columbia Lottery Corporation has been responsible for providing residents in BC with a number of gaming solutions that have rapidly evolved in time. Lotteries, horse races, dozens of land casinos, charitable games managed by licensed non-profit organizations and sports bets are the main gambling activities residents can enjoy here.

As previously mentioned, British Columbia uses the PlayNow platform online that enables residents to play the lottery online, along with poker, keno, blackjack, slots, bingo, slots and sports bets.

Saskatchewan

VLTs are part of this province since 1993 and there are thousands of them and counting. All revenues go to the General Revenue Fund that belongs to the government. Licensed bingo games and raffles games, land casinos managed by the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, the provincial lottery handled by Saskatchewan Lotteries with proceeds used for funding thousands of groups, Sports Select bets on sports like hockey, baseball or football and offshore casinos are also available in Saskatchewan.

Alberta

Alberta funds over 4% of its budget using revenues from gambling like age-restricted VLTs, horse races at the Century Downs or the Alberta Downs and various teletheatres, sports bets limited to $250 a day, over 25 land casinos, most of which split their profits with charities, as well as First Nations casinos, virtual casinos, daily lotteries managed by the Western Canada Lottery Corporation, as well as pull tickets and bingo games offered by charitable organizations.  Alberta has only recently (2020) opened a fully functioning online casino for residents of the province.

The North, which combines the Nunavut, Yukon and Northwest Territories, is managed by the federal government in terms of gambling, including charitable games, lotteries, three-day casinos that require casino licenses, sports betting facilities, online gambling and private wagers between residents in Nunavut.

The Future Of Gambling Laws In Canada

While it is illegal to operate online casinos in the country without having a license, it is completely legal for a Canadian resident to use an offshore casino to gamble online. Players seem to be aware of that, as, in 2019, the gross gambling revenues at these venues went over $390 million and 2020 projections speak about more than $450 million. As for what the future holds, the government appears to continue to throw the focus on various other legislative areas, so the status quo will most likely be kept in the future, meaning that gamers will be still allowed to indulge in legal gambling at a number of licensed offshore online casinos.

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