Canada online gambling laws remain stagnant approaching fall 2020.
Here we are, midway through summer – fall fast approaching – and there’s been change in the current status of Canada’s iGaming laws. Online casino style games remain legal by default, legitimate sports betting is restricted to multi-picks within Canada, and everything under the sun is available via international gambling websites. That’s the way it’s been for years, and the way you can expect it to remain by the time 2020 is over.
Last January, as the sun rose upon the modern technological age of a new decade, so many were certain the time for regulatory action regarding online gambling laws, on a federal level, was nigh. As the months went by, it became more and more obvious that iGaming was the last thing on the minds of government officials. The way they were at the start of 2020 is, no doubt, the way they will be when the year reaches its end come December. And with that, I thought this might be a good time to take a quick look at the…
Current State of Canada Online Gambling Laws
As of August 2020, internet gaming remains under ‘grey market’ classification in Canada. The term grey market applies to any jurisdiction where the laws are not clear enough to be specifically legal (white market) or illegal (black market). Here in Canada, we reside under grey market status, where iGaming is neither expressly legal, nor prohibited.
What’s truly important here is understanding the difference between the laws of gambling on websites maintained within Canada, as opposed to the laws pertaining to internationally regulated gambling sites. Also, the type of game or contest on which you’re gambling will impact the legal status.
Online Casino Gambling at Canada-based Websites
Casino style gambling refers to all things classified as a ‘game of chances’; traditional casino games
(slots, blackjack, video poker), bingo, even poker. There are a number of provincially regulated websites offering these types of games for wagering. They are able to do so based on federal law, which states – and I’m paraphrasing here…
Gambling conducted within Canada is illegal unless authorized by the province in which it is conducted.
Thus, a provincially operated iGaming website, like Ontario’s PlayOLG or Quebec’s Espacejeux, is able to offer a wholly legal option. Those websites are, however, only capable of accepting players from within their respective borders; (i.e. only Ontarians can access PlayOLG).
Online Sports Betting at Canadian Websites
Although less common, some provinces do present their adult residents with the option to bet on sports over the internet. Where available, however, only multi-pick sports lotteries are presented. This is because Canada prohibits sports betting on any single event. Multi-picks, or parlays, require the bettor to select a minimum of 2 or 3 (depending on the province), and up to 6, items to wager on. All of the picks must be correct in order for the bet to win.
Internet Gambling at Offshore Websites
Gambling at international websites, whether it be casino games, poker, bingo, or sports betting, is where Canada earned its ‘grey market’ iGaming status. Referring back to Canada’s federal laws on gambling, you’ll remember that ‘gambling conducted within Canada is illegal unless authorized by the province in which it is conducted’. The emphasis here is on iGaming that is ‘conducted within Canada’.
Offshore operators are not conducting gambling within Canada. Their offices, servers and operations all exist overseas, at a remote location, where such activities are perfectly legal. Therefore those operators are not obligated to abide by Canadian law. Likewise, there is no censorship of the internet where gambling is concerned. As a result, Canadians are free to gamble at offshore websites, betting on everything from blackjack to bowling, with no threat of legal recourse.
Changes to Come…
If and when the government is able to return its focus to general matters, the most likely change to gambling laws will be; a) legalization of single-event sports betting, and/or b) federal regulation of online gambling. As for when Canada online gambling laws might see a change, it’s impossible to even speculate.
Single-event betting is something Canadians have been pleading for since the dawn of legal gambling decades ago. It would open a whole new world of land-based and internet betting opportunities for the Canadian market, not to mention revenue streams for provincial governments. The regulation of basic online gambling would create a more competitive market, where offshore operators are welcome with open arms and open wallets as regulatory licenses become available for purchase.