Canada Online Betting, Then and Now

Online Betting Canada: A factual recollection of lawful iGaming.

Online Betting CanadaIn some ways, it’s surprising just how much online gambling has evolved throughout the world. Far more surprising, however, is the rapid evolution of digital technology. Just look how far we’ve come in the last 30 years.

When I was a kid, nascent video gaming consoles were all the rage. I still remember unwrapping my first Nintendo Entertainment System. Not the Super Nintendo. Not the Nintendo 64, or today’s Nintendo 3DS, Wii U or Switch editions. I’m talking about the original NES that came with the original Super Mario Brothers / Duck Hunt cartridge combo, and that laser gun that made every small child wonder how pointing it at a TV worked to shoot down animated ducks.

More gaming consoles arrived, followed by computers small enough to put on a desk, and then, the granddaddy of them all – the information highway! Since the internet came along, it became the catalyst for every technological innovation thereafter. Laptops, mobile phones, smartphones, tablets, and all of the websites and apps we use every single day.

One of the modern miracles of technology was the arrival of internet gambling. Which brings us to the beginning of our story…

Factual Recollection of Lawful Online Betting Canada

Canadians were first welcomed into the iGaming community just before the turn of the millennium. At that time, there were only a few online casinos and sports betting sites in operation – well, a few good ones anyway. As always, with the good comes the bad, and as the months went by, more and more rogue operators began competing for deposits. It gave the iGaming industry a bad name, but it also gave the government of British Columbia the encouraging nudge it needed to regulate online gambling.

BC was among the world’s first handful of jurisdictions to launch a government-run online gambling website. It went live in 2004, providing residents of BC with a safe, secure, and wholly legal way to bet online. The majority of iGaming Canadians were still doing their gaming with offshore operators, due to the greater game variety and more valuable bonus promotions, but it proved there was a demand for better safety and security.

As the years progressed, events took place outside of Canada that would help shape the legal framework within. Among them, the US government banned online gambling in 2006, and began heavily enforcing that ban in 2007. The UK had regulations in place, but only enough to ensure they got a small slice of the revenue pie.

Quebec Pushes The Legal Envelope

In 2010, Quebec decided it was time to take its own stand. The government didn’t want its people gambling at offshore sites. It launched the self-regulated Espacejeux and told Quebecois that it was illegal to gamble with any other unauthorized website.

That was a lie, but one they perpetuated for as long as they could. They even tried to institute an IP block to prevent people from access international gambling sites, but the federal government and telecommunications agencies stopped them, arguing they had no right to censor the internet.

That particular case, which went on for two years, made it unquestionably clear that online gambling is legal in the Great White North. Canadians can visit the government-run websites of their home province (where available), or any internationally located online casinos, poker rooms, sportsbooks, etc, without fear of legal recourse. They are doing so at their own risk – reputation and licensure goes a long way in this business! – but their freedom to do so is entirely lawful.

Ontario Joins the iGaming Race

Ontario didn’t launch its online gambling portal, PlayOLG, until 2015. As they say, better late than never, right? Manitoba had also hopped aboard the band wagon by this time, but they did so in quiet, nondescript fashion in 2012, piggy-backing off the original PlayNow website of BC with a shared player pooling agreement.

The OLG’s interest in iGaming was more unique than their neighboring provinces. On the down side, OLG chose to offer an online casino only – no poker, bingo, or other games. On the plus side, though, Ontario is the one region that is pushing heavily for single-event sports betting.

If local lawmakers manage to sway the federal government into amending the sports betting laws, I have no doubt Ontario will be the first to infuse a complete sportsbook – as opposed to the current Pro-Line sports lottery – in its website. All others will be soon to follow, likely igniting a fire under other provinces and territories to launch iGaming portals of their own. And that, my friends, will forever change the face of online betting in Canada.

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