The Canadian gambling market is traditionally one of the most dynamic and attractive for both operators and players. It is filled with various casinos, poker rooms, and other gambling options. Many large operators are geared towards the Canadian market, as evidenced by the fact that the national currency of Canada – the Canadian dollar – is used in play. Take a look at the list of the best casinos using the Canadian dollars.
At first glance, everything seems to be simple: you need to conduct a standard casino check, and then you can go ahead, collecting bonuses and prizes… But it’s not that simple.
Is online gambling truly legal kn Canada? Are all gambling providers open for Canadian players, operating legally? What are their differences, what features of verification do they have, and what aspects to consider when choosing a casino? We will answer these and many more questions in detail in this article.
To begin with, we’ll clarify that regulation of offline and online gambling in Canada is by and large not divided – there are no separate rules for iGaming. Therefore, everything that is described further (if there is no additional clarification) applies to the entire gambling sector as a whole.
The situation regarding the regulation of gambling in Canada is ambiguous and rather difficult, and there are many reasons, both objective (for example, the history of Canada, especially its territorial structure), and not quite objective (not always the clear policy of the Canadian authorities in the field of gambling).
So, let’s break it down.
At the federal level, the main act regulating gambling in Canada is the Criminal Code of Canada 1985 (this already says something, doesn’t it?).
According to sections 201-206 of the Criminal Code, any type of gambling is prohibited. In other words, the organization or conduct of any gambling (as well as any participation in this activity) is a crime under Canadian law.
However, this prohibition does not apply to provincial governments that have the exclusive right to regulate, organize, and conduct gambling on their territory (section 207 of the Criminal Code). It means that only the provincial authorities can establish the rules of gambling on their territory and be the owners of commercial gambling rooms.
In addition, provinces may issue gambling licenses to charitable or religious organizations (but only for religious or charitable purposes).
Exceptions to the prohibitions:
«<…> some taking the position that competitors are merely engaged in the form of betting and therefore engaged in illegal conduct, while others take the position that it is game of pure skill and therefore a legal competition».Quote from https://iclg.com/ by Danielle Bush, Miller Thompson LLP.
But in any case, the betting is illegal if it is done by a person who does not participate in the Fantasy competition, as this will be deemed as pure betting.
At this point, gambling regulation at the federal level basically ends (with the exception of some acts regulating areas adjacent to gambling, such as, for example, the 1985 Competition Act with general provisions for conducting events with signs of competition).
Provinces and territories of Canada have the authority to approve their laws and regulations governing gambling. Thus, each region has its own rules regarding gambling. In general, these rules are quite similar, but there are certain differences and aspects in different regions. Below we will provide brief background information on gambling in the provinces and territories.
You can get detailed information on the regulation and licensing of gambling in a particular province by clicking the link below:
In addition, we have prepared a special guide to the territories that are interesting to research as well. Just click this link: The 3 Canadian territories.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Prince Edward Island
Thus, according to Canadian laws, the provincial governments formally have a gambling monopoly. The real situation is different from that described in the laws, which we will address later in this material.
There is no single gambling regulator in Canada. All authorized bodies and organizations operate at the level of provinces and territories, and there is not always a single body/organization in each region. Above is a list of regulators by province and territory.
Canadian players can contact these regulators to verify Canadian gambling operators registered in the relevant territory, or suppliers of games and equipment for these operators, as well as to review any claims arising from their activities and disputes with them, and to clarify all matters related to gambling in the province.
However, the activities of these regulators apply specifically to Canadian operators and their associated suppliers of games and equipment, but not to thousands of other operators who provide their services to Canadian players.
And now let’s look at the kinds of operators represented on the Canadian gambling market.
These are the government companies mentioned in the previous section of this material that have a monopoly on gambling.
In Canada, formally, there can be no private casinos. Thus, gambling licenses are not issued to private operators (licenses can only be issued for charitable and religious lottery events).
Nevertheless, there is a legal way for private companies to operate in Canada’s gambling market which is to cooperate with government companies or their agents, which are established in all provinces in the form of government lottery corporations or casinos.
In this cooperation, private companies act as suppliers of software, technical support services, or other services necessary for conducting games (hereinafter referred to as “service operators”). In other words, only government companies can be a formal gambling operator in Canada, but in fact, private individuals/organizations can also be operators.
Moreover, service operators do not have to be Canadian – there are no a priori restrictions on the place of their creation or registration. However, Canadian regulators conduct an obligatory assessment of the risk of working with these individuals based on certain criteria, including evaluating the “honesty and integrity” of operators.
Please note: Despite all these opportunities for private companies to cooperate with the provinces, the most important thing that players should keep in mind is that gambling can be carried out only under the name of a government company created by the provincial authorities.
For example, in British Columbia, according to the Gaming control act, a government lottery corporation may enter into agreements with registered gaming providers for the provision of services required to run and manage provincial games. So, the gaming service provider offers these services under the control of a lottery corporation.
Licenses: such provincial government companies do not have licenses; they act on behalf of the provinces. You can check such a company by using regulators’ websites that contain information about legal gambling corporations operating in the province.
In addition, provincial regulators post information on registered service providers who are entitled to supply or maintain gambling in cooperation with provincial companies (for example, this information can be found on the British Columbia regulator website).
Although Canadian laws prohibit any gambling, except for that organized in provincial and territorial government organizations, a significant number of foreign private companies operate on the Canadian gambling market.
One of the reasons is the dominant doctrine of “territoriality” of the laws and jurisdiction of Canadian government bodies (we addressed the content of this doctrine in the article on the regulation of gambling in Switzerland. According to this doctrine, the prohibitions and rules established by the Canadian Penal Code can only be applied domestically.
However, the real question of whether the Criminal Code of Canada applies to online gambling offered by foreign operators licensed in jurisdictions where gambling is allowed by law has never been definitively settled by law or the courts of Canada.
Therefore, the widespread opinion in the gambling environment about the complete legality of online gambling offered by foreign operators in Canada, which can be found on many specialized sites, is not true.
In fact, this is another “gray zone” of Canadian regulation – one cannot argue that online gambling provided by foreign private companies is prohibited in Canada, but at the moment it cannot be said that it is completely legal.
At the same time, illustrative examples from practice are speaking in favor of the legality of foreign providers:
Starnet Communications International Inc. (SCI) case – SCI was originally incorporated in Delaware and controlled by Vancouver residents. The company was found guilty of storing computer applications and servers in Canada (Vancouver) that provided Canadian and non-Canadian players with access to betting. SCI made a deal with the state, paying a fine to the budget and additional $4 million as proceeds from criminal activity. After that, SCI became an offshore company and was no longer prosecuted by Canadian authorities for illegal gambling activities. Also, not a single foreign gambling operator was prosecuted, whose services are available to Canadian players.
From this, we can conclude that the Canadian authorities aim at prosecuting only those gambling operators that are geographically tied with Canada (operators that are registered in Canada, have property or controlling persons inside the Country) and turn a blind eye to the activities of foreign companies.
As many Canadian lawyers noted, the “principle of a foreign operator” (the principle of non-proliferation of Canadian laws on foreign operators) was reaffirmed in 2016 during the discussions on draft C-13.
«The foreign operator principle was emphasized in the Observations to the Fourth Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs (Bill C-13). In response to concerns expressed by a witness of the potential extra-territorial application of a clause of Bill C-13, which dealt with the transmission and reception of information relating to book-making, betting and wagering, among other things, the Committee clarified that the intent of the clause was not to extend jurisdiction and thus the clause would not have extra-territorial application. Though the commentary relates to a specific amendment, it provides insight with respect to Parliamentary intent regarding gambling laws»Source: Jaswal Institute.
The best example at present is the attempt of the Quebec authorities to limit access to foreign online gambling operators.
On May 18, 2016, the Quebec Provincial National Assembly passed a bill known as the “Bill 74” or “Budget Act”, in which it expanded the scope of its consumer protection legislation, imposing the obligation on Internet service providers to restrict Canadian users’ access to illegal online gambling regardless of the location of the site operator.
This project immediately caused a lot of negativity from the Canadian Internet and gambling communities, which accused the Quebec authorities that the purpose of this act is primarily to eliminate competition from foreign operators to bring more finances into their government lottery companies.
In the same 2016, two months after the adoption of the bill, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (“CRTC”) appealed this provision of the law in court, citing its unconstitutionality.
On July 18, 2018, Quebec Supreme Court decided to recognize Bill 74 as unconstitutional and, therefore, inapplicable. The court concluded that the contested measure was aimed at preventing access to competitive online offers in the province, and not at consumer protection, as it was stated by the province.
Quebec authorities appealed the decision to the Quebec Court of Appeal. To date, the appeal has not been resolved in the Court of Appeal.
Obviously, this dispute will reach the Supreme Court of Canada, which will make the final decision on the issue. Most Canadian experts and lawyers agree that the decision on the non-constitutional status of Quebec’s attempts to limit access to private online gambling providers will remain in force.
Thus, at present, access to private foreign online operators in Canada is not limited, which means their activity is not considered illegal (at least for the time being).
In any case, from the point of view of Canadian law, participation in online gambling is not an offense on the player’s part. However, Canadian players should take into account certain features of online operators with foreign licenses when choosing them.
Licenses: foreign operators must be licensed by a foreign jurisdiction in which gambling is legal. Most often these are licenses of smaller European states, for example, Malta or the Isle of Man. A license obtained in the United Kingdom is recognized as authoritative.
On our site, you can find general information on casino licensing and casino licenses and their verification in individual countries.
In Canada, in addition to the provinces and territories, the territories of the Indigenous Peoples of Canada (reservations) are regulated separately. Special rules apply to these peoples, for example, Article 35 of the Constitution of Canada, which guarantees the recognition of their indigenous rights (rights that they had before the arrival of Europeans on the territory of modern Canada), or the Indian Act.
Indigenous peoples have long been fighting for their right to hold gambling and casino operations, citing the fact that this is their original aboriginal right and that they were engaged in gambling even before Europeans thought of leaving their shores.
However, the Canadian authorities disagree, which is proven by the examples of the White Bear Nation, the Shawanga First Nation and the Eagle Lake First Nation cases in which the courts indicated that Aboriginal rights of the Indigenous Peoples cannot go against the Canadian Penal Code and do not possess distinctive features of aboriginal rights.
However, the protests of the Indigenous Peoples, and their struggle for the right to organize gambling operation and use it as one of the main revenue items of their economy, led to the fact that now the authorities of many provinces are loyal to the gambling of Aboriginal people and incorporate them into their provincial legal casinos or issue licenses for ‘charitable’ gambling, which is especially characteristic of the Saskatchewan province.
We have already made a detailed review of the topic of choosing a casino, what should the player focus on and how to check gambling operators. Also, on our website, you can find information on licensing companies in different countries and how to check casino licensees in specific jurisdictions.
Now we want to outline in a few words the main recommendations for checking online casinos and give a kind of instruction that will help you quickly and correctly navigate the offers in the gambling market.
1. Check the license, its validity and who issued it.
In different countries, permissions for games are called differently. Most often they are licenses (as in Canada), but sometimes there may be concessions or just permissions.
Information about the casino license can be found at the bottom of the page or on the sidebar of the online casino website. Sometimes operators have more than one license in different jurisdictions.
Pay attention to who issued the license and in which jurisdiction it was made.
Recheck the license – use special national registries to check the casino licenses. Such registers exist in most states (but not in all states, for example, in Curacao, there is no such register). At least from the registry, you can find out if this license really exists, whether it is valid (has it not been canceled/terminated) and its expiration date.
One of the most authoritative is the license of the United Kingdom. Also, many large online casinos are licensed by Malta.
2. Check whether the online casino accepts players from your region, whether it is legal in your region.
Some casinos directly say in their T&C information about the prohibition of registration and games on their website to players from some states, in order to comply with their national legislation. However, not everyone does this, even large casinos. To find out whether this or that online casino is legal in your country, you need to refer to the national legislation. In addition, you need to understand whether there is a responsibility in your country for playing unauthorized gambling and how it is applied in practice.
We recommend playing only in a legal casino. However, it often happens that it is impossible to accurately understand from the laws of the country whether a particular type of gambling is allowed or prohibited (for example, as in the case of foreign online casinos in Canada). In these cases, it makes sense to seek clarification from specialists. For example, you can write to us, and we will forward your questions to our legal experts.
3. Check the software used on the website: its manufacturer and its testing by specialized organizations.
4. Check the system of payments – payment periods, how and where your funds are stored, which payment systems are used, how payments are protected.
The most reliable option is to store players’ deposits in a separate account that is not associated with the operator’s bank or trading account.
6. Check the owning company of the website and its location (registration) – information about the company should be on the site (usually, they are shown in the same place as the license information).
Further, we recommend that you verify the validity of the company and information about it using special international or national services;
7. Check the ways of resolving claims and disputes – the best casinos will provide you with an opportunity for alternative (out-of-court) settlement of claims and disputes, which will be faster and more convenient than usual legal proceedings.
8. Check for online player support and whether it really works.
9. Check the social responsibility of the casino – good operators don’t need to squeeze the last money out of you. Reliable rating casinos should always provide you with the opportunity to restrict your (or someone close to you) access to the game or completely exclude it. For example, reliable casinos always have a Self-Exclusion Program. In addition, operators participate in various social non-profit programs related to gambling problems. Trust only responsible casinos.
All of this information is posted by operators on the website (usually at the bottom or on the sidebar) and/or in their T&C.
Pay attention: when choosing a foreign operator, always consider the place of licensing and the location (registration) of the owning company of the casino. If it comes to court, disputes and claims against the casino will be resolved in the jurisdictions of their owners and according to the rules established in these jurisdictions.
If you have any questions about checking online casinos or you have comments/additions/suggestions – we will be glad if you write to us.
Kahnawake is one of the Mohawk reservations in Canada located in Quebec. It is also one of the recognized world jurisdictions for obtaining a casino license.
Kahnawake went much farther than all other Indigenous peoples’ territories – it adopted its own gambling laws, approved licensing rules and casino activities on its territory and began issuing licenses to private gambling operators.
Unlike the rest of Canada, offline and online casinos in Kahnawake are regulated separately.
The main regulatory act on online gambling in Kahnawake is the Regulations Concerning Interactive Gaming (RCIG).
Kahnawake has created its own regulator, which is responsible for issuing licenses and controlling operators – Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KWG). KWG is also involved in resolving player claims and disputes with operators.
In addition, Kahnawake has created its own data center – Mohawk Internet Technologies (MIT), located in the reservation. Moreover, according to the requirements, the RCIG companies themselves can be registered in any jurisdiction, but the equipment (co-location facilities) of the licensees can be located only in MIT (KWG also assesses the risks of the company when issuing a license, including cases based on the “honesty and integrity” criterion).
Licenses: KWG issues 5 types of licenses:
Players are primarily interested in CPA – it is this license that applies to the online casino operator itself.
The site of the licensed online casino should contain the official KWG logo:
If the site is properly licensed by KWG, the browser will display a “Certificate of Good Standing” of this casino when you click on the logo. It should look like this:
Also, a list of licenses issued (permits) can be checked on the KWG website in a special section.
It is quite difficult to understand logically, but the rules and laws adopted in Kahnawake, which contradict both federal and provincial legislation, have been successfully implemented and have not yet been appealed by the authorities of Canada or Quebec. Moreover, none of the licenses issued by Kahnawake was recognized illegal, and private online operators function in Kahnawake without harassment from the authorities.
Although in 2007 the media reported that one of the Kahnawake licensees pleaded guilty and paid a fine on charges from the Quebec authorities in illegal gambling. Later the representatives of the gambling industry explained that this persecution was not associated with the casino itself or the KWG license, but was rather initiated against the company owning the site, which had an office in Saint-Laurent located on the island of Montreal. That is, the company was fined for operating offline in Quebec; therefore, in this case, the legality of licensing Kahnawake foreign operators was not questioned.
Thus, the activities of KWG have never been disputed, and licenses issued to it are valid and recognized by other jurisdictions.
For example, KWG has signed Memorandums of Understanding with several leading licensing and regulatory bodies, including:
According to the Kahnawake KWG authorities, 443 licenses were issued without any questions or complaints from the Canadian authorities. In July 2018 it was reported that there were more than 50 operators, representing about 250 sites.
Judging from the issued permits posted on the KWG website, 20 operators are currently licensed, with a total of about 100 sites. If these figures are true, then the demand dynamics for Kahnawake licenses is decreasing.
However, it follows that the undoubted advantages for Canadian players are:
As already mentioned, only provincial government organizations can be casino owners in Canada, so it makes no sense to check them.
You can check foreign licensees and Kahnawake licensees by using special resources (read more about them in our article).
However, lately, there has been more and more news about blocking of gambling-related transactions by banks of Canada:
Therefore, we recommend that you use electronic wallets as a safety measure and other alternative payment methods that are not related to banks.
Like many modern states, Canada does not prohibit the use of cryptocurrency but does not recognize it as legal tender (although it taxes income in the form of cryptocurrency).
Nevertheless, the use of cryptocurrency in online gambling of Canada is widespread (with the exception of government lottery corporations). For example, cryptocurrency is accepted by such well-known casinos as Jackpotcity and Mr Green.
The convenience of cryptocurrency in contrast to credit institutions and payment systems lies in the fact that you cannot be subjected to arbitrary deviations of operations and freezing of funds.
Net income without tax. Players in Canada enjoy that gambling revenues are not taxable (unless you are a professional player).
In Canada, as in any civilized country, there are centers for helping players – they operate in every province and territory.
Below are organizations and their hotlines where you can ask for help if you encounter problems with gambling:
In addition, the Responsible Gaming Council (RGC), a non-governmental, non-profit organization that operates in Canada, also offers its assistance to people in the fight against gambling addiction.
Also, operators are obliged to provide you with the functionality to limit access to gambling (by setting the maximum duration of playing or the maximum number of bets) to yourself (or a person close to you), or completely eliminate it (using self-exclusion registers). In all modern jurisdictions, this is a mandatory requirement for the licensee. The absence of such a feature indicates low social responsibility or even the illegality of the operator. We recommend that you refrain from choosing such operators.
What other features should be considered when choosing a gambling operator, you can learn from our article on common approaches to the regulation of gambling in the world.
Private online casino operators with foreign licenses or Kahnawake licenses are not illegal in Canada, based on its existing laws and how they are currently interpreted.
Therefore, Canadian players are not limited in their choice of betting operators: they can choose between government casinos of the provinces of Canada or private operators. This choice depends on the player’s own preferences and what offers are provided by gaming establishments.
Most often, foreign casinos are favored with more attractive offers in terms of prize money, a wide choice of games and, in general, more developed and friendly software and gaming infrastructure. And it is really difficult to argue with that.
Therefore, we recommend conducting a proper check of the operator and ensuring its integrity and reliability, examining the casino T&C and paying attention to the place of company’s registration and which jurisdiction its license belongs to. For convenience, we have compiled a rating of reliable casinos with a good reputation and interesting gaming offers in Canada.
In our article you can find out more about the reasons to conduct a casino check, how to conduct it, and how this information can be useful.
Also, on our site you can find information about licensing companies in different countries and how to check the validity of licenses of specific jurisdictions.
At the moment, gambling regulation in Canada looks like a huge “Berlin wall” raised across the entire border of the country, but this wall is full of holes through which online gambling operators, formally “unapproved by the authorities,” make their way into the Canadian market. Moreover, the Canadian authorities understand that there is no need for such a wall of unconditional prohibitions, divorced from modern realities. But for now, they do not dare to demolish this outdated structure and come up with new adequate regulation, although they do not strongly strive to counteract the existing “gray zones.”
However, from our point of view, such ignoring of problems will not last long, and in the near future, we will see qualitative changes in the regulation of gambling in Canada. At least we hope so, especially considering the events occurring at the present time, which should affect the further development of gambling in Canada:
It should be noted that this is the third attempt to adopt such amendments, and so far it hasn’t moved beyond the level of discussion, but it is possible, given the accumulated problems in Canadian gambling sector and the attention of industry and society in general, that both parties will be able to come up with the regulations and create healthy conditions for the activities of this huge and profitable sector of the economy.
At the same time, we believe that the Canadian gambling market will continue to grow and remain one of the most popular for operators around the world, regardless of what reforms will be adopted by the authorities and in spite of attempts to block Canadian players’ transactions by financial institutions.