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Canada - online gambling regulations

Published by Mira | February 9, 2019 | Last updated: April 26, 2022

Country specifics

It’s no secret that the online gambling industry has experienced some rapid growth over the years with the improvement of technology, providing game developers with more and more tools to create bigger and better online games.

Betting and playing online for real money has been a popular pastime across the globe but especially in Canada and players enjoying top Canadian online casinos. The laws and regulations regarding online gambling have been quite difficult to understand as this specific region has plenty of them.

Over the years many forms of land-based gambling activities have been legalized by the government, but when it comes to online gambling things are a little bit more intricate.

Online Gambling Regulations in Canada

In this guide, we take a look at the history of gambling in Canada, the current laws and regulations and how all of it affects you as a modern-day gambler situated in Canada.

The history of gambling in Canada

Canada, like most other nations, has a rich history when it comes to gambling. Even before the late 1400’s there is evidence of games of chance and skill played by native Indians. Before 1892 there were a lot of card games, dice and other forms of entertainment, and while gambling became a part of the Canadian culture only in 1892, not everyone was for it.

It was only in the 20th century that gambling was no longer seen as immoral and wrong. At this time it was recommended that legislative changes be made. In 1969 public lotteries were legalized and in 1985 gambling control was transferred from federal jurisdiction to provincial.

In 2001 Canada was known as a gambling mecca, with thousands of gambling machines and 59 permanent casinos for citizens to visit. In modern times gambling is all about choice, especially in Canada, and because of this, there are hundreds of online casinos that provide their services to Canadians.

Canadian gambling laws

The Canadian Criminal Code was passed in 1892 and basically stated that gambling was tolerated within reason. In 1910 the law was changed to allow only pari-mutuel betting for horse racing. All other games of chance were allowed to be played only if they served a charitable or religious purpose.

Unfortunately, the laws weren’t quite binding and gambling became more and more popular among Citizens. In 1970 this changed, and the provinces were each left in charge of setting up their own laws and regulations regarding gambling.

While some took their time to warm up to gambling, other provinces started building casinos and horse tracks almost immediately. This later branched out to live casinos, and video lottery terminals being installed in some areas. The Criminal Code is very specific regarding real-life gambling activities but very vague regarding online casinos and poker sites.

The Kahnawake Mohawk Nation is a native reserve based on the outside of Montreal that plays a large role in the laws and regulations. This Nation claims to be independent and refuses to take part or adhere to laws they haven’t implemented themselves.

The Kahnawake Gaming Commission was established in 1996, and they have the power to license online casinos that meet their requirements. This nation can legally host online casinos from within Canadian borders without risking trial or prosecution.

With the Kahnawake Mohawk Nation clearly boycotting the laws, it is very difficult for online gambling to be completely banned from Canada. The laws regarding online casino games in Canada are generally very confusing, as each province determines the legal status of online gambling for its own citizens. The federal government has also not done much to take a stand or determine which direction they will go with the overall legalization of online gambling.

Should I pay tax on my gambling winnings?

While online gambling is a bit of a grey area in Canada there are hundreds of Canadians who take part in this virtual form of entertainment. The big question to most is whether or not they are required to pay tax on their winnings. Luckily the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has stated very clearly that any winnings obtained from gambling, whether online or at a land-based casino, is not taxable. In fact, Canadians aren’t even required to report such winnings.

Players who make a profession out of their gambling, such as professional Poker players, are however expected to report their earnings as income. Anyone who has a set monthly income from any source apart from gambling is exempt from paying tax on their winnings. This, however, counts for losses as well. You can’t claim back your gambling losses.

Is it legal to gamble online in Canada?

Online gambling has always been considered to be a grey area in Canada. The government does not grant local companies licenses to operate online casinos. According to the Criminal Code, it is considered illegal to host a gambling site within the Canadian borders, but on the other hand, every province has said whether online gambling is legal or not within their borders. In many ways, this has left the door open for online casinos to offer their services to Canadian gamblers.

You as a player can safely participate in any online gambling activities. There is no legal action that will be taken against you for playing at an online casino. According to those in the law profession, players are not breaking any laws when they participate in online gambling.

It is however strongly suggested that you opt for an online casino that has the right credentials and has been licensed or is regulated by some gambling authority. These online casinos tend to be more legit and are less likely to be a scam or do harm to players within Canadian borders.

As of April 2022, Ontario, Canada, is a newly regulated market, happily for all players in the region. The Ontario regulator is looking over online casino brands and implementing online gambling legislation. Many casinos have already been approved by the regulator, a lot have applied, and for the rest, we are still following the market as we know it will only continue to grow!

If you are unsure of where to begin in finding the right online casino for you then we’d suggest you take a look at our list of top-rated online casinos in Canada. These casinos have been reviewed and extensively researched before being added to our safe-to-play list. Playing at these online casinos guarantees you a safe and stress-free gambling experience.

There is no certainty of what the future holds for online gambling in Canada, but one thing is certain and that is that online responsible gambling is an incredibly lucrative market that has the ability to increase the nation’s revenue substantially.

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