Legal Betting FAQ: Land-based and online gambling laws in Alberta, Canada.
The province of Alberta is truly an amazing place. Its majestic landscape is beautiful all year round. It is especially famous for its eclectic range of festivals, hosting everything from the Edmonton Fringe Festival (the world’s second largest), to Canada’s largest rodeo, the Calgary Stampede (right), dubbed “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”.
With petroleum, agriculture, and technology leading Alberta’s industrial engine, the province boasts one of the world’s strongest economies. Residents seek out a range of entertainment that is as diverse as the region’s culture. Gambling is a pastime enjoyed by many, whether it’s a night at the poker table, a session at the slot machines, or a day at the track.
Unlike some of their neighboring provinces, Alberta does not regulate as many forms of betting. Online gambling, for instance, is not provided by the local government, as it is in British Columbia, Ontario and others. That alone doesn’t make it illegal, though. In the following sections, we’ll discuss what forms of gambling are and are not permissible, both land-based and online.
Land-Based and Online Gambling Laws in Alberta
The purpose of this document is to offer up an easy, FAQ-based reference guide to educate readers about Alberta’s gambling laws, both on land and online. The Q&A below is based on common questions and factual responses, current as of February 2020.
What forms of gambling are legal in Alberta?
– Horse Racing
– Lottery (WCLC)
– Sports Betting (Pro-Line Sport Select)
– Casino gambling
Who regulates gambling in Quebec?
Most gambling activities that take place within the province are authorized and regulated by the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis agency. The AGLC licenses all casino games and bingo events, as well as raffles and pull-tabs, for commercial casino operators, community video lottery terminal (VLT) facilities, and charitable gaming events.
The only gambling activities that are not regulated directly by the AGLC are horse racing, tribal casino gaming, and lotteries. Horse racing is, and has always been, regulated by the federal government. Tribal casinos are operated by their respective First Nations tribes. All lottery sales, including Sport Select, are managed by the region’s collective Western Canada Lottery Corporation (WCLC).
What about Alberta online gambling laws?
This question does not have a straight-forward Yes or No answer, but it is easy to comprehend with just a little knowledge of Canadian gaming law. On the one hand, it is not specifically proscribed as a legal activity. The provincial government does not condone, authorize, regulate, or operate any form of online gambling, or online gambling websites.
On the other hand, provincial law does not prohibit the act of gambling over the internet. The truth is, provincial governments do not have the authority to criminalize internet gambling. That’s a tested and proven fact. Quebec tried. It didn’t work. Prohibition of any online activity is left in the hands of the federal government, which has purposely ignored its option to pass laws on the matter.
Simply put, although online gambling is not expressly legal, it is not illegal either. And if it’s not illegal, it is legal.
Is it legal to gamble at offshore gambling sites?
Yes. In fact, offshore gambling sites are the only ones Albertans have access to, and it is perfectly lawful for them to do so. The Criminal Code only deems it illegal if an online gambling operation is ‘not licensed’ by a province, and is ‘physically located’ in Canada. This makes international online gambling websites perfectly legal, so long as they have no offices or servers based anywhere on Canadian soil. If an operation does have a physical presence in Canada, the act of crime is laid upon the head of the operator, not the player.
Is single-event sports betting legal in Alberta?
Unfortunately, no. Single-event sports bets are illegal throughout all of Canada. The federal government made sure of that in Section 207 (4) of the Criminal Code, whereby “bookmaking…on a single sport event or athletic contest” is prohibited.
Canadian provinces got around this by altering sports bets to fit into the definition of a legal “lottery scheme”. Alberta, via the WCLC, hosts Pro-Line Sport Select wagers, which are only offered as multi-pick parlays.
However, in reference to the question of online gambling laws in Alberta, it is perfectly legal to place single event sports bets with internationally regulated online sportsbooks. Canada has no jurisdiction over offshore operators, and since it is not illegal for them to accept Albertan players – nor is it illegal for Albertans to gamble with offshore operators – there’s nothing illegal about it.
Are gambling winnings taxable?
No, regular gambling winnings are not taxable in Alberta, Canada. Gambling online or on land, you are not required to report winnings on your income tax forms, so long as you are not in “business of gambling”. To be in the business of gambling, a significant portion of your income (or losses) must be derived from gambling (i.e. professional poker player). Click here for more information.
Is it safe to gamble at offshore online gambling sites?
Online gambling is far safer than it was a decade ago, but there are still risks. The key to safety is to be vigilant. Only bet at websites that are run by operators with a long-standing reputation, and more importantly, those that maintain a valid license from a respectable jurisdiction. European licenses are the most reputable of all; The UK, Malta, Alderney, Gibraltar, Isle of Man, etc. These authorities hold their licensees to the highest standards, and have no patience for non-compliance. See our Gambling Safety Tips to learn more.