GAMBLING LAWS IN CANADA

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Written by:
Tuomas Laine
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Last update:
22.5.2024
  • Laws & Regulations
  • Stay up-to-date with regulatory changes
  • Informed, responsible gaming

At BonusNinja, we monitor Canada’s transition from unregulated to regulated gambling, understanding the importance of current laws for responsible and legal gaming.

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Canada Gambling Laws Information

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Casino Guides

To brush up on your casino gambling laws knowledge before visiting a online casino, explore our detailed casino guides.

A Brief History Of Gambling Laws in Canada

To truly understand Canada’s current view on gambling and the laws surrounding this industry, we should take a closer look at the history too. Before the 1970s, gambling was not a general event that the average Canadian participated in. In fact, gambling was heavily associated with organized crime and was not widely regulated or accepted.

By the year 1970, things gradually started turning around. While it didn’t happen overnight, within just a decade, the gambling industry in Canada was able to make a significant advancement.

In 1970, Canadian governmental authorities started to slowly allow local citizens to participate in certain gambling activities. Even though the country became less strict with the gaming industry, there were still quite a large number of limitations and restrictions put in place.

Another major advancement was made in 1985. At this time, the Canadian government started to allow each province to oversee specific activities that are related to lotteries and gambling. This is why the laws differ quite significantly from province to province in Canada. When travelling between provinces, it is important to take note of these legal changes. This allows you to be in full compliance with the law.

Historically, Canada’s gambling regulations have been prohibitory and stringent—mostly due to the government’s desire to protect its citizens from the consequences of irresponsible gambling. Keep in mind that the law only applies to running a gambling establishment—it has never been illegal to play in one.

Today, there are more responsible players than before, which is why Canada’s lawmakers have been slowly moving towards a more liberal legal framework for gaming. If you want to know how the Criminal Code’s sections on gambling changed throughout the years, check out the table below:

Date of Amendment
Gambling-Related Change
July 1, 1892
Initial enactment of the entire Criminal Code, which prohibited gambling
June 23, 1910
Limited horse racing is allowed
December 10, 1969
State-run provincial lotteries are made legal across the country
June 20, 1985
Provincial governments get free reign to regulate gambling individually within their jurisdictions 
June 17, 1999
Betting is allowed on cruise ships
June 21, 2021
Ban on single-event sports betting is lifted

Before the latest change to Canada’s Criminal Code, sports betting was only legal if the wagers were parlay bets on multiple events. The amendment of 1969 is arguably the most significant one for the gambling industry in Quebec. 

With the rising popularity in casinos, jackpots and gambling following these movements in Canada, there was an expected increase in criminal activities pertaining to loopholes and grey areas. This is the unfortunate result of more lax regulations, but several laws and actions have been taken to gain control over the situation.

Sections 201, 202, 206, and 209 are currently the most common areas where the Criminal Code of Canada currently deals with offences and illegal activities in the gambling industry. Each of these codes related to a specific set of regulations and laws that were developed to protect the government, registered institutions, and the average citizen against criminal activity in gambling and lottery operations.

The Criminal Code was modified in the year 2010. The idea was to ensure offences in the gambling industry could be identified and that authorities could take appropriate actions. The four sections mentioned previously, which include 201, 202, 206, and 209, were all adjusted and are now classified as serious offences.

According to the new adjustments to the Criminal Code, the following actions are now considered serious and warrants legal actions from authorities within Canada:

  • Any offence that has a relation to games of chance, as well as those that involve lotteries.
  • Activities that include pool-selling, book-making, and betting conducted in illegal manners.
  • The maintenance and keeping of a betting or gaming house.
  • Activities that can be seen as cheating – which result in a defraud against either the institute providing the casino games or the customer.

There are currently serious consequences should you be found guilty of any regulations listed above. At the moment, more serious offences can warrant an arrest and time in prison for as long as five years. The minimum in-prison time for these scenarios is usually two years. In certain offences, the guilty are sentenced to around six months in prison and given a fine of $5,000.

Did you know?

Each province independently regulates its gambling activities.

Even though Canadian authorities have lifted some of the strict rules that were in place previously, the legality of online gambling in the country still remains at least somewhat of a grey area. More clarity is available when looking at laws that regulate the offerings and operations of land-based casinos in the country.

Still, there are a few factors we can consider to better understand whether it is legal to participate in real money online gambling activities when you live in Canada.

An excellent example of Canada taking action comes in the form of a lawsuit filed against a company based in Delaware. The company was offering citizens of Canada access to online gambling services without holding any licenses that allowed them to do so. The Canadian government ended up getting Starnet Communications International to forfeit revenues they made from citizens that were local to Canada.

A total of $4 million was received in the case. This is, of course, only one example of a case where Canada acted against online casinos operating outside of their legal capacity.

When it comes to looking at the legality of online gambling, it is important to note that Canada does not prohibit these activities for local citizens. Instead, Canadian authorities require an online casino site to have a license in a local province.

When a provincial government extends a license to an online casino, individuals who reside within the province are allowed to use the gambling services. Alternatively, citizens are advised to consider looking for online gambling platforms that are owned by their local, provincial government. This adds an extra layer of safety and also helps the individual be more compliant with the laws surrounding online casinos.

Gambling Laws By Province

When looking at gambling laws in Canada, we should not only focus on the general rules and regulations.

Since 1985, Canada has given every province the right to set its own rules too. Any Canadian online gamer should consider the specific gambling that pertains to their province of residence. This will help grasp a better understanding of what is allowed in the area one resides.

Here are a few key points when examining inter-provincial gambling laws related in Canada.

Quebec

Several forms of casinos and gambling are currently considered legal in the area. Let’s take a look at the gambling laws in Quebec.

Country of Origin Legal? Facts
Casino Yes Overseen by the Quebec Alcohol, Racing and Gaming Commission
Horse Racing / Betting Yes Only one racing field is available for betting.
Lotteries Yes Loto-Quebec
Sports Betting Yes (With limitations) Only allowed through Mise-O-Jeu
Online Casinos Yes No strict rules in terms of regulations, but new laws will be implemented in the near future.

Kahnawake Gaming Commission

The Kahnawake Mohawk Territory is a semi-autonomous area near Montreal, whose indigenous people have had many territorial and legal disputes with the Quebecian and federal governments over the past century. 

Since the early 1990s, these people have started capitalizing on their autonomy by adopting a more liberal stance on gambling than the local and federal laws. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission(KGC) was created in 1993 to oversee all the land-based gambling operations in the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory. 

Today, the KGC also regulates off-shore online casinos. Since their servers are on semi-autonomous Mohawk territory, these establishments are exempt from the federal ban.

New Brunswick

While New Brunswick is not as keen on gambling as some of the other provinces, the province still has a large number of people who find themselves interested in these activities. Let’s look at the local laws in New Brunswick.

Country of Origin Legal? Facts
Casino Yes There is only one casino in New Brunswick.
Horse Racing / Betting Yes Both on-track and off-track betting allowed
Lotteries Yes Atlantic Lottery Corporation deals with draws and payouts
Sports Betting Yes Only through Pro-Line, overseen by Atlantic Lottery
Online Casinos Yes (With limitations) Citizens should look for online casinos with off-shore headquarters.

British Columbia

Legal gambling and casino games have been available to citizens of the British Columbia province for over 30 years. Here’s a view of the current laws and regulations.

Country of Origin Legal? Facts
Casino Yes There are more than 15 casinos for residents to choose from.
Horse Racing / Betting Yes It can be accessed through Fraser Downs or off-track simulcasts.
Lotteries Yes The province has been offering lottery tickets since 1985 for residents 19 years or older.
Sports Betting Yes You need to wager on two or more games at a time.
Online Casinos Yes (With limitations) Residents are allowed to access PlayNow, which is a locally owned and regulated online casino.

Prince Edward Island

Gambling activities are overseen by the Prince Edward Island Lotteries Commission. Prince Edward Island has a low rate of lottery and gambling participation. Here is an overview of the laws.

Country of Origin Legal? Facts
Casino Yes (With limitations) Racino is the only legal casino in this province.
Horse Racing / Betting Yes No off-track betting is allowed.
Lotteries Yes The Atlantic Lottery Corporation operates the lottery in Prince Edward Island.
Sports Betting Yes, online and in-store You are only allowed to purchase a ticket at the age of 19.
Online Casinos Yes  Province laws do not provide many details on this subject.

Labrador and Newfoundland

Both Newfoundland and Labrador provide similar laws when it comes to gambling and games of chance. Here is an overview to help you better understand the provincial laws.

Country of Origin Legal? Facts
Casino Complex legal status Only First Nations Tribes may operate a land-based casino.
Horse Racing / Betting Yes There is only a single horse racing track considered to be legal
Lotteries Yes The lottery is managed and overseen by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation.
Sports Betting Yes (With limitations) The maximum daily wager for tickets is $250.
Online Casinos Yes Players need to seek off-shore online casinos.

Alberta

About 4% of Alberta’s budget currently comes from revenue generated by the gambling industry. Here are the laws related to common gambling activities.

Country of Origin Legal? Facts
Casino Yes There are more than 25 legal casinos in Alberta.
Horse Racing / Betting Yes Legal horse betting options are only available in three areas of Alberta.
Lotteries Yes The Western Canada Lottery Corporation overseas lotteries in Alberta.
Sports Betting Yes (With limitations) You are limited to betting a total of $250 in a single day.
Online Casinos Yes There are no specific restrictions mentioned regarding online casinos.

Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan reports some of the highest gambling spendings in Canada. Let’s consider the local, provincial laws for this province.

Country of Origin Legal? Facts
Casino Yes There are eight legal casinos in the province.
Horse Racing / Betting Yes You can get access to both tracks and tele theaters for horse betting.
Lotteries Yes Lotteries have been legal in Saskatchewan since the year 1974.
Sports Betting Yes (With limitations) Sports betting is available for soccer, football, hockey, basketball, and baseball.
Online Casinos Yes You are only allowed to use off-shore casino platforms.

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Manitoba

You can expect less strict rules and regulations when gambling in Manitoba.

Country of Origin Legal? Facts
Casino Yes There is a large selection of land-based casinos that are legal to play at.
Horse Racing / Betting Yes A variety of horse tracks can be found throughout Manitoba.
Lotteries Yes Lottery in Manitoba is overseen by the Western Canada Lottery Corporation.
Sports Betting Yes (With limitations) You may not bet more than $250 in a 24-hour period.
Online Casinos Yes A provincially owned online casino is available to residents.

Nova Scotia

While Nova Scotia is known for fishing and agriculture, about 87% of adults admit to playing a gambling game on one or more occasions every year.

Country of Origin Legal? Facts
Casino Yes There are only two legal government-owned casinos in the area.
Horse Racing / Betting Yes You can select from three different legal horse tracks.
Lotteries Yes You can purchase lottery tickets online or at a retailer.
Sports Betting Yes (With limitations) You can only use the Pro-line betting system for these activities.
Online Casinos Yes There is no governmental online platform, but you can seek off-shore options.

Ontario

Ontario has a much larger population than other provinces. In most areas, a resident finds themselves within a short distance to a casino – as these institutes are exceptionally common in the province.

Country of Origin Legal? Facts
Casino Yes You can choose between more than 25 casinos that are local to the province.
Horse Racing / Betting Yes While you can still participate in horse betting, this market has experienced a significant downturn since 2013.
Lotteries Yes You can participate in both national and provincial lotteries.
Sports Betting Yes (With limitations) You are allowed to participate in Pro-Line betting options.
Online Casinos Yes You need to find a provincially licensed or off-shore online casino.

Canadian Lottery Corporations – Quebec & Beyond

In 1969, the federal government decided to let provinces organize and run their lottery companies, mostly for charitable and public causes. The 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal was the first major event partially funded with lottery money. 

Soon after that, Canadian provinces were granted a monopoly on gambling, making them the only legal casino operators in their jurisdictions. Loto-Québec became the state-owned gambling operator in Quebec. Here are all the other provincial-run gaming companies across Canada: 

  1. British Columbia Lottery Corporation
  2. Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis
  3. Western Canada Lottery Corporation
  4. Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation
  5. Atlantic Lottery Corporation
  6. Saskatchewan Lotteries
  7. Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Corporation

In practice, these state-owned enterprises rarely organize gambling activities themselves. Unofficial casino operators have always existed, but to avoid the federal ban, the provincial law would label them as “suppliers” to the state lottery companies. That’s how casinos have been set up in Quebec and the rest of Canada since the 1980s. 

Various private management companies help the province of Quebec run its four local casinos, along with an assortment of smaller poker rooms. Still, Loto-Québec is the only official operator of land-based casinos in the area. 

Final Verdict

For a long time, gambling was considered an illegal activity in Canada. Since 1970, however, the governmental authorities in the country have started to become less strict on these activities.

Currently, it is possible to gamble in Canada without overstepping the laws. It is, however, important to note that the laws are not the same in every province. In addition to learning about the general gambling laws in Canada, make sure you also familiarize yourself with regulations that relate to the province you reside in.

Even though gambling is considered legal in most areas of Canada, you should still be careful when choosing a casino. Whether choosing a land-based or an online casino, do your research to help you find the safest option that can give you a fair chance of winning.

Here at Bonusninja, we strive to keep our readers informed on the most up to date information regarding gambling laws in Canada. While we expect to see some big changes coming to the Canadian online gambling industry in the coming years, we do our best to pass the information onto our audience.

Our goal is to provide the best bonuses in a safe betting environment for all Canadian gamblers. By staying informed and gambling responsibly, gamers can help to grow the industry and expand the opportunities in Canada.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that we have taken a closer look at the gambling laws in Canada, there are still a few questions you may feel have gone unanswered. If you still have something in mind, then take a look below. We clear up some of the most frequently asked questions regarding this topic.

Is it legal to gamble online in Canada?
?

This is somewhat of a grey area and causes a lot of confusion among local citizens in Canada. The laws in Canada do not consider all online gambling activities as illegal. The country does, however, state that citizens should look for associations and organizations that are regulated or owned by governmental authorities.

There are also no specific laws that state Canadians are not allowed to gamble on websites that are operated by an off-shore organization. Furthermore, take note that Canada does consider gambling activities through a local organization not regulated by the government illegal at this time.

Can you gamble at 18 in Canada?
?

The minimum age requirement you must meet before you can legally gamble in Canada depends on where you live. Each province has specific rules that should be followed – and this includes a minimum gambling age.

When it comes to casinos, most provinces allow individuals to participate from the age of 19. Thus, in these provinces, you cannot gamble at the age of 18. Citizens of Alberta, Quebec, and Manitoba, on the other hand, are allowed to participate in gambling activities once they turn 18.

The lottery also has specific age restrictions, as it is considered a type of gambling activity. In the majority of countries, you can start participating in lotteries from the age of 18. If you live in British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, or Newfoundland, however, then you may not play the lottery before you are 19 years of age.

What is the most trusted online casino in Canada?
?

When looking at new casinos in Canada, particularly ones that operate on the internet, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the laws.

Just because an online operator is offering no deposit incentives or free spins doesn’t make them legit.

Most provinces do not allow you to play an online casino if it is owned by an organization local to the country. This said, there are some provinces looking to start their own online gambling platforms. In this case, the online casino would be owned by the local government – making it legal for local citizens to utilize.

When it comes to the most trusted online casino in the country, you will likely have to look at options that are operated by off-shore organizations. This is why research is so important. Always ensure the casino you sign up with does support Canada. You should also ensure the casino is trusted – and that’s why it is important to look at a few reviews.

Focus on reviews that are not posted on the casino’s own domain but rather on external review websites, like our reviews at Bonusninja.

What are gambling sites legal in Canada?
?

When looking for legal sites to gamble on in Canada, start by considering the address provided. You should specifically look at the country that the headquarters of the organization is located in. If there’s no address, move on to the next one. If the gambling site has an address in Canada, then consider whether it is owned by a local government authority. If not, then you should avoid registering.

When the gambling site is operated in a different country, then you will likely be allowed to legally sign up and participate in the games offered by the online casino.

Is gambling taxable in Canada?
?

This is yet another grey area, particularly when looking at Canada in general. There are several scenarios that do not call for taxes to be paid on gambling profits. This, however, does not account for every situation.

When determining whether you will have to pay taxes on your gambling winnings in Canada, there are a few things to take into consideration. In cases of a casual player who only visits their online casino profile now and then, profits made are not considered taxable within the country. On the other hand, if you invest your profits and earn interest, then the interest gained will be taxable.

In cases where you decide to take on gambling as a career choice, then you are considered a freelancer in Canada. This also means your earnings need to be reported annually and will be taxable.

Are online gambling laws changing in Canada?
?

The easy answer to this is yes. With new laws and bills being passed, online gaming is taking a big step forward in Canada. Over the next few years, we may be seeing a big change in some of the provincial regulations and local legislation.

The factors for this change are varied. With so many illegal operations so easily accessible, the government is finding it difficult to monitor activity both for tax reasons and safety reasons. Allowing companies to operate legally and within federal and provincial regulations allows a safer and more sustainable gambling industry.

In addition to the increased demand, advancements in industry has increased the popularity of
bitcoin casinos, live casinos, and more effective payment systems creating more accessibility.

Over the next few years, we can expect to see more and more legal operations offering great incentives and bonuses to Canadian gamers.

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