2020 Guide to Legal Gambling in Nova Scotia

Legal Betting FAQ: Terrestrial and online gambling laws Nova Scotia (2020).

Legal Betting FAQ: Terrestrial and Online Gambling Laws Nova Scotia, 2020 EditionNova Scotia is what you might call the pinky toe of Canada; a relatively tiny island off the eastern coast, but one that plays a very important role in balancing the nation’s economy. It is the world’s largest supplier of everything from lobster and wild berries, to gypsum and Christmas trees. Having an inordinately drastic ebbing of the tide, and also being situated so close to the mainland’s busiest ports, results in a rather disturbing situation wherein Nova Scotia is home to an incredible number of annual ship wrecks; a fact that explains why there are a brow-raising 41 lighthouses situated along its coastline.

Aside from agriculture and fishing, the ‘Bluenose’ of Canada also harvests a good deal of its economic gain from tourism. Cruise ships docking in the ports of Halifax and Sydney contribute $1.3 billion to the annual GDP, with the most sight being – again – lighthouses. All in all, it’s a peaceful place to reside or visit.

Locals enjoy a wide range of activities in their pastime. While gambling isn’t one of the most prominent avenues of entertainment in Nova Scotia, it does have a notable following. There are two commercial casinos in the province, Casino Nova Scotia Halifax and Casino Nova Scotia Sydney, enjoyed by both locals and tourists. A sprinkling of small gaming centres are also available, offering video lottery terminals (VLTs) and/or bingo.

These are just some of the gambling options legally offered in the province. Our mission today is to determine all types of gambling that are legal in Nova Scotia, those that are illegal, and those that fall into a “grey area” of the law.

Land-Based and Online Gambling Laws Nova Scotia

This next section is presented in a quick Q&A fashion. The idea is to give you fast answers to all of your questions. All of the information is based on current federal and provincial laws (as of March 2020), and is, to the best of my knowledge, true and factual.

What forms of gambling are legal in Nova Scotia?

Horse Racing
Lottery (ALC)
Sports Betting (Pro-Line)
Casino gambling (slots, tables, poker, etc.)
Charity (bingo, raffles, VLTs)

Who regulates gambling in Nova Scotia?

Nova Scotia’s Alcohol and Gaming Authority (AGA) is responsible for the authorization, regulation and monitoring of most legal gambling activities that occur within its jurisdiction. This includes commercial casinos and charitable community gaming centres. The AGA works in conjunction with the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) to provide lottery, Pro-Line sports betting and VLT games. The ALC provides these services under the guidelines of the AGA.

The ALC also handles online lottery sales via its website, which is made accessible to adult residences of all the Atlantic Canada provinces.

Horse racing is authorized and regulated on a federal level. This is one area the provincial government has no control over.

What do Nova Scotia online gambling laws cover?

The only form of online gambling that is expressly legalized by the Nova Scotia government is online lottery sales, available via the ALC website. As of March 2020 – despite years of prodding encouragement from the ALC – casino games, poker, and other iGaming activities are not regulated by the Crown corporation.

Note that the laws of Nova Scotia pertain only to the online gambling activities permitted on the ALC website. International online gambling sites are not covered by provincial law, nor do they fall under the jurisdiction of Nova Scotian or Canadian law.

This is what members of the legislative community like to call a “grey area” of the law. It occurs when an activity is not expressly deemed legal nor illegal. If something is not illegal, it is legal by default.

Is it legal to gamble at offshore gambling sites?

Yes. There are no restrictions in the provincial or federal law books that prohibit gambling online with wholly-international gambling websites. Canada has no jurisdiction over these, so long as they have no physical presence (servers, offices, etc.) on Canadian soil.

By these standards, Nova Scotians cannot legally access the online gambling websites of other Canadian provinces, such as BC’s Playnow, or Quebec’s Espacejeux, but they have every right to access (i.e. deposit with, place wagers at, and withdrawal winnings from) gambling sites that are located overseas.

Is single-event sports betting legal in BC, Canada?

No. Residents of Nova Scotia are not legally permitted to place single-event sports bets at this time. Within Nova Scotia, adults (19+) are only allowed to place parlay-style wagers on 2-6 outcomes via the Pro-Line sports lottery. Single-event betting is legal with international websites. These bets can be placed at retail locations or on the ALC website.

Note, however, that these laws only apply within Nova Scotia, Canada. Just as online gambling at offshore websites is not illegal, placing sports bets with offshore bookmakers is also not illegal. Canadians have been placing single-event sports bets with international sportsbooks sicne the dawn of the internet, with no threat of legal recompense.

Are gambling winnings taxable?

No. Nova Scotians – all Canadians, for that matter – have no obligation to report gambling winnings on their taxes. Only business income should be reported. There are rare cases in which professional gamblers might be required to report their winnings and losses as taxable or deductible income, but these are very rare instances that even the Canada Revenue Agency has a hard time defining. You can learn more about that here.

Is it safe to gamble at offshore online gambling sites?

The safest place for Nova Scotians to do their online gambling is at the ALC’s online lottery website, where regulation and monitoring is done locally. However, not everyone is content with the meager lottery and sports wagering options it provides. For those people, the safety of online gambling with international websites is, fortunately, within their control. Safety aligns mostly with where the operator is licensed.

European gaming regulators are famous for being the strictest in the world. The UK is the strictest of all, demanding severe player protections and settling for nothing less. Penalties are swift and harsh against any operator that fails to comply with these laws. Malta comes next, closely following the regulatory steps of the UK. Other trusted European jurisdictions include Alderney, Gibraltar, and Isle of Man. See our Gambling Safety Tips to learn more.

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