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August 4, 2023

Online Gambling Laws—Where Can You Play Legally? 

The global online gambling industry has shown significant growth in the past two decades, but its legality is still a hotly debated topic in most world countries, including Canada. 

If you’re wondering whether Canadian laws against gambling allow you to play at online casinos, the short answer is yes. The same goes for online gaming in some other countries, such as the United States.

The rules for casino operators are a whole different story. Layers of different federal and provincial laws create a multifaceted legal gray area for online casino operators in both countries. 

With this in mind, we’ve put together a detailed guide to online gambling laws in Canada and the US, with a focus on the former. We’ll shed some light on the legality of online gaming in these countries and compare them with other regulatory bodies across the world. You’ll also learn how casino regulators determine which establishments are reputable and worth granting a license that ensures your money and personal information are in safe hands.

Laws About Online Gambling in Canada and the US

Source: Tingey Injury Law Firm

When it comes to gambling regulations, Canada has both federal and provincial laws. In terms of federal laws on gambling, most of the rules are laid out in Section 207 of Canada’s Criminal Code

This section prohibits the organization of “common betting houses,” which lawmakers interpret to include online casinos. However, the Criminal Code never explicitly defines nor forbids online gambling. That’s why players can still legally bet at an online casino. It’s just illegal to run one from Canada. 

The Criminal Code of Canada gives each province and territory in Canada the authority to regulate gambling activities within their borders. This gives them the freedom to make gambling as legal or illegal as the local legislators see fit. 

In 2021, Bill C-218 further liberalized the Criminal Code for online casinos by letting provincial governments determine the legality of sports betting in their respective jurisdictions. 

Online Gambling Laws in the US

United States gambling laws have recently gone through a similar process. Online gambling was considered illegal according to the Wire Act of 1961 and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006

The US Department of Justice amended its interpretation of the Wire Act in 2011, concluding it only forbids sports betting across state lines, not online gambling in general. After that, the Supreme Court struck down the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, opening the doors to legal online betting across the country. 

Similarly to Canada’s gambling regulations, the US now lets each state regulate online gambling individually. As a result, the following states have thriving iGaming markets: 

  • New Jersey 
  • Pennsylvania
  • Michigan
  • Delaware
  • West Virginia
  • Nevada

Right now, the state agencies that actively regulate online gambling in the US are:

  • Arkansas Racing Commission
  • Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC)
  • Colorado Division of Gaming
  • Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency (MLGCA)
  • Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (CTDCP)
  • Louisiana Gaming Control Board (LGCB)
  • Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB)
  • Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC)
  • Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB)
  • Illinois Gaming Board (IGB)
  • Arizona Department of Gaming (ADG)
  • Delaware Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE)
  • Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC)

Provincial Laws About Gambling in Canada

Canada’s provinces can freely regulate online gambling. Most of them organize provincially run lottery corporations, which are usually the only gambling operations allowed in those provinces—with the exception of Ontario. 

Here’s a list of state-run gambling operations in various Canadian provinces: 

  1. British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC)
  2. Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis (AGLC)
  3. Saskatchewan Lotteries
  4. Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Corporation (MBLL)
  5. Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG)
  6. Loto-Québec
  7. Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC)
  8. Western Canada Lottery Corporation (WCLC)

In the past few decades, most provinces and territories have passed their legislation on online gambling. Here’s a breakdown of these provincial gambling laws in Canada, along with their governing bodies: 

Province/Territory Gambling-Related ActGoverning Body
AlbertaGaming, Liquor, and Cannabis ActAlberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis Commission
British ColumbiaGaming Control ActBritish Columbia Lottery Corporation
ManitobaLiquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control ActLiquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba
New BrunswickGaming Control Act of 2008Gaming Control Branch of the Department of Public Safety
Newfoundland and LabradorLottery Licensing Regulation under the Government Money Purchase Lottery ActService NL
Nova ScotiaGaming Control ActAlcohol, Gaming, Fuel and Tobacco Division of Service Nova Scotia
OntarioGaming Control Act of 1992 and Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation Act, 1999Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario
Prince Edward IslandLotteries Commission ActPrince Edward Island Lotteries Commission
QuebecAct respecting Lotteries, Publicity Contests, and Amusement MachinesLoto-Québec
SaskatchewanAlcohol and Gaming Regulation Act of 1997Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority

Yukon, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories haven’t passed any legislation on gambling yet. 

Online Gambling in Ontario

iGaming Ontario

Source: iGaming Ontario

The provincial government of Ontario has adopted a more liberal stance towards online casinos compared to the rest of Canada. 

Before Ontario passed legislation regulating off-shore casinos, Canadian players were in an awkward position—the online casinos they visited were unregulated in their home country. This meant players had no way of ensuring their favourite casinos were legitimate and trustworthy. 

Ontario put a stop to this by regulating off-shore online casinos. In 2022, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) created iGaming Ontario (iGO)—a subsidiary whose sole purpose is to regulate the online gambling market for local players. Today, any online casino that wants to legally service Ontario-based players from within its borders has to obtain an AGCO license and submit to the regulatory oversight of iGO. 

These regulatory bodies put online casinos from around the world under financial, legal, and reputational scrutiny. Even for casinos that aren’t located in Ontario, an AGCO license is a guarantee of quality and safety. 

Kahnawake Gaming Commission 

Kahnawake Gaming Commission

Source: Kahnawake Gaming Commission

Online casinos that serve Canadian players are sometimes licensed by another local Canadian authority—the Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC)

This commission was established by the councilmen of the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory—a semi-sovereign First Nation tribe with a hotly disputed legal status. 

Due to Kahnawake’s sovereign status, casinos based on their territory are treated as off-shore casinos. This makes them legal from the standpoint of federal law, as they’re technically not run from Canada. 

These casinos are regulated by the KGC, which issues licenses to online establishments under its jurisdiction. The KGC has been in a legal dispute with iGaming Ontario since 2023 because the Kahnawake nation feels Ontario’s regulatory body is hurting and disturbing its local economy. 

Right now, the KGC runs its own auditing operation and checks the legitimacy of online casinos under its purview. Both AGCO and KGC licenses are trustworthy guarantees of an online casino’s legitimacy and legality for Canadian players. 

Source: Michał Parzuchowski

Before you deposit anything at an online casino, it’s important to ensure you’re playing at a venue that’s licensed by trustworthy regulators. This is the only way you can be certain your money and personal information are safe. 

Provincial and state regulators from Canada and the US perform in-depth background checks to ensure they only issue licenses to reputable online establishments. While the specific criteria vary across jurisdictions, most licensing bodies check the following factors before approving a casino: 

  1. Player security and privacy
  2. Variety of payment methods
  3. Responsible gambling practices

Player Security and Privacy

Most regulators have a tough stance on cybersecurity and player privacy. Legal online casinos in Canada and the US are required to employ:

  • Data protection standards
  • Anti-cheating measures
  • Regulatory compliance

When you register at an online casino, you share a lot of personal and financial information with that establishment. Naturally, you don’t want such confidential info to fall into the wrong hands, which makes cybersecurity a priority when choosing an online casino. 

Legitimate casinos use various cybersecurity measures to protect your information, such as firewalls that prevent unauthorized access. Their websites are also protected with industry-standard data encryption protocols like SSL, ensuring your confidential data is unintelligible to potential hackers. 

Data privacy is another concern because you don’t want the casino to share your private information with all kinds of third parties. While government agencies might require the casino to share your data for international crime and money laundering prevention, that doesn’t mean it should be available to anyone else. 

If you’re interested in a casino’s stance on cybersecurity, you can check its website to see what data encryption protocol it uses and read the terms and conditions—that’s where the venue will outline its data privacy policies. 

Variety of Payment Methods

Source: Stephen Phillips –

Reputable off-shore casinos give players a wide variety of payment options for withdrawals and deposits. Canadian and American regulators don’t prescribe any specific payment methods casinos must offer, but they do set some standards for licensed casinos to follow. For example, the casino has to verify a player’s identity before processing their deposit or withdrawal to prevent money laundering. 

Licensing bodies in Canada and the US generally don’t issue licenses to online casinos that allow payments in cryptocurrencies. In fact, AGCO forbids such payments because cryptocurrencies aren’t legal tender in Canada. While iGaming regulators in the US don’t forbid crypto explicitly, they don’t license casinos that support it in practice.

Legal casinos try to provide a decent range of banking methods for players to choose the most convenient one. Different payment options also provide varying levels of security and speed. For example, while credit card transactions are processed almost instantly, bank transfers can take a whole business week. 

Many casinos also charge additional fees for bank transfers and other payments that require more processing. Finally, payment methods like Bitcoin and eWallets provide more privacy. 

The more banking options an online casino provides, the more certain you can be that you’re dealing with a trustworthy venue. These are the 15 most popular payment methods at reputable online casinos: 

  1. MuchBetter
  2. PayPal
  3. Payz
  4. Paysafecard
  5. American Express
  6. Bank transfers
  7. eChecks
  8. Mastercard
  9. Maestro
  10. Instadebit
  11. Skrill
  12. Visa
  13. iDebit
  14. Neteller
  15. Apple Pay

Responsible Gambling Practices

Gambling regulators want players to make safe wagers within their means instead of succumbing to problem gambling. That’s why they require licensed casinos to provide help to problem gamblers, usually via links to local organizations that help those with gambling issues. 

For example, in New Jersey, all licensed casinos have to dedicate a webpage to responsible gambling and link to Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey and the National Council on Problem Gambling.

Ontario’s gambling laws go a step further by ensuring licensed venues provide players with features that enable responsible gambling, such as:

  • Self-exclusion 
  • Deposit limits
  • Time-out requests

If you’re not sure you can keep betting within reason, you can request a self-imposed deposit limit at almost any casino overseen by iGaming Ontario. This will keep you from wagering more than you’re prepared to lose.

There’s also the temporary time-out feature. Most establishments with this feature let you choose between a week, a month, or six months for your time-out period. During this time, you won’t be able to log in and play. The final option is requesting permanent self-exclusion, which will result in your casino account being deleted for good. 

If you don’t want to spend tons of time researching legal and legitimate casinos yourself, we’ve put together a quick list of our top ten choices in Canada: 

Online CasinoLicensesGateway
PlayOJO• Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego in Spain
• Malta Gaming Authority
• UK Gambling Commission
• Dirección General de Juegos y Sorteos in Mexico
• Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario
Click here to visit!
Casino Classic• UK Gambling Commission
• Kahnawake Gaming Commission
• Malta Gaming Authority
Click here to visit!
Captain Cooks Casino• Kahnawake Gaming Commission
• UK Gambling Commission
• Malta Gaming Authority
• Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario
Click here to visit!
Luxury Casino• Kahnawake Gaming Commission
• Malta Gaming Authority
• UK Gambling Commission
Click here to visit!
Lucky Days• Kahnawake Gaming Commission
• Curaçao Gaming Control Board
• Malta Gaming Authority
• Swedish Gambling Authority
Click here to visit!
BetMGM Casino• Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario
• Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB)
Click here to visit!
DraftKings Casino• Michigan Gaming Control Board
• Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board
• New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement
• Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario
Click here to visit!
SpinAway• Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario
• Curaçao Gaming Control Board
Click here to visit!
Jackpot City• Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario
• Alderney Gambling Control Commission
Click here to visit!

By opting for one of these online casinos, you can rest assured you’re choosing a venue that adheres to relevant gambling laws and play safely.

Other Gaming Authorities Worldwide

As a Canadian player, your ideal scenario is playing at an online casino that’s regulated by the AGCO or the KGC. Still, Ontario has only begun regulating off-shore casinos recently, and Kahnawake’s scope is limited—many respectable online venues still function outside of its oversight. 

Luckily, there are other international licensing bodies that evaluate online casinos and certify reputable ones. Many of them aren’t as rigorous as AGCO, but they can still point you in the direction of a trustworthy casino and steer you away from the fraudulent ones. Here’s a rundown of legitimate licensing bodies across the world:

These gaming authorities perform various tests to ensure the safety and fairness of all their licenses. Some depend on third-party auditors, such as e-Commerce Online Gambling Regulation and Assurance (eCOGRA), who perform more detailed inspections. eCOGRA is one of the most credible third-party auditors, and many licensing bodies rely on it to verify genuine randomness and return-to-player rates at licensed casinos. 

Featured image source: Tingey Injury Law Firm

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