Gaming online in Canada has always been seen as a grey area in Canadian law when it comes to its legality. Especially so when considering the diverse opinions from around the world surrounding legal gambling.
However, in the past few years, there have been a few provinces that started their own online gambling casinos. Some of these casinos are attempting to suggest that offshore operators are operating illegally, yet there is nothing in Canadian law that supports this.
The reality is that online gambling in Canada and legal online casinos do exist. Casinos.co estimate that over 70% of Canadians have gambled in the past year. But it’s far more confusing in reality and to date, the Federal Government has yet to enact any specific legislation in relation to online gambling.
Is Online Gambling in Canada Legal?
There are a number of important facts that need to be considered when it comes to online gambling in Canada, Canadian law and how it relates to online gambling. It’s illegal to be found in a betting house or to run one according to the Criminal Code of Canada.
However, as this is considered an outdated law, it’s impossible to apply this code to online casinos or online betting houses without further clarification. In 2012, the first fully legal online casino was launched in British Columbia with casino games and poker offered to residents of British Columbia. Based on this, we decided to look at a few areas with hopes of providing some clarification.
The Criminal Code
There was no such thing as legal Canadian casinos between 1892 and 1969. In fact, you were not allowed to gamble at all on anything at the time other than raffles, charitable lotteries, and horse racing. However, in 1969 a decision was made by the federal government to allow all Canadian provinces to hold their own lotteries as this appeared to be a great way for various local projects to be funded.
In 1985, the federal government made another decision to delegate full control over gambling to the individual provinces. Meaning, each province had control over gambling laws in its province. Unfortunately, the federal criminal code did not change and merely added more confusion to the issue.
Canadian law, where the criminal code is concerned, permits parlay bets of 3 or more matches instead of only single matches. There is an effort in motion to remove this restriction from the Criminal code to permit wagering on single events.
There are numerous online sites offering poker within Canada. While none of the sites are hosted within Canada, other than those hosted on Indian servers, there have not been any laws been passed to prohibit Canadian player from gambling on such sites.
The tax laws in Canada dictate winnings made from gambling are not taxed unless it’s seen as a form of employment based on the expectation of payout, skill, and frequency of play. Should you be a professional poker player, there might be taxes involved, but for those who play for fun, winnings will be taxed.
Gambling Laws in Canada
The majority of casinos that operate online do so in countries that are friendly to operators. Generally, these are offshore operating in Malta, Costa Rica and other countries. The fact they are identified as “offshore” is a bit confusing as a large number of offshore casinos are situated within the Canadian borders; technically falling under their own jurisdiction as they are hosted on Native reserves.
For example, the Kahnawake Mohawk Nation located outside of Montreal started the Kahnawake Gaming Commission in 1996 and offers gaming licenses to online casinos providing a loophole within the Criminal code. This allowed numerous legal Canadian casinos to operate successfully and for Canadian players to play freely online.
Legal Gambling Age in Canada
The legal age for gambling in Canada varies slightly according to the different provinces.
Legal gambling age in Quebec and Alberta is 18. People must be at least19 years of age to gamble in British Columbia.
Online operators are obliged to implement several measures across their site to ensure that minors are unable to access any of the services. These policies are in line with responsible gaming initiatives which all licensed and regulated operators must promote to protect customers. A detailed identity verification process is part of these measures to prevent underage gambling.
However, it also falls under the responsibility of the legal guardian to take the necessary precautions to ensure minors have no way of accessing such services. Making use of child-protection software, such as Cyber Patrol, Net Nanny or CYBERsitter is an effective way to block gambling sites from minors.
Who Licenses Online Casinos in Canada?
As it stands, each province regulates its own gambling sites online in Canada.
The Kahnawake Gaming Commissionalso operates inside Canada but is considered its own governing body, technically speaking. This commission not only regulates Canadian casino sites and operates its own servers, but is also considered the most-used regulator for casino sites around the world.
The question of getting in trouble for playing online will remain unclear until certain laws have been written and passed. Due to the fact that this could take some time, most people still play at an online casino on a daily basis. As far as research shows, no one in Canada has ever charged with playing at an online casino in the past. Even if a casino cannot operate in your jurisdiction due to what a specific law states, most casinos operate outside of the countries jurisdiction and it will be near impossible to shut all of them down without a law pertaining to same in place.
What's the Future of Casinos in CA?
There’s no certainty what the future holds for legal online casinos in Canada due to the government being fairly hesitant in altering the criminal code from how it currently stands. Evidently, legalizing online casinos in Canada would be beneficial by pumping money into the economy of Canada and arguments for legalization and regulation are strong.
For the time being, these providers are more than enough to satisfy slot gambling. However, regulations still might change in future to open the gates for more and more gambling entities.
In all likelihood, Canada will ultimately have a liberal form of regulation where online casinos will be regulated but will still be fully legal as long as they maintain certain restrictions and pay taxes on income generated from Canadian players.
If you reside in Canada, online gambling in Canada is legal. The worry about facing legal issues for playing or paying taxes on winnings is mute as the laws do not apply to either of these areas. While British Columbia sent out letters in attempts to suggest that B.C residents who choose online gambling in Canada will face legal troubles, the reality is B.C has no standing on this and will be unsuccessful based on Federal Law and this has been confirmed by experts on Canadian law.
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