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With the proliferation of online gambling throughout the world, each country has been pressed to decide where they stand on the issue. In many countries, online gambling laws are very clear regardless of whether such activities are legal or not. In Canada, there is a little bit of black area and a whole lot of gray when it comes to the disposition of legal online gambling.
The History of Online Gambling in Canada
Prior to 1969, all forms of retail gambling were outlawed in Canada. In 1969, the federal government passed legislation that made lotteries legal. In subsequent years, incremental changes in Canadian law gave additional retail gambling access to Canadian residents.
When online sports betting and casino gambling became a reality in the late 1990s, there was nothing in the law that prevented Canadians from using offshore gambling accounts. The only obstacle a Canadian gambler might face was finding a foreign online gambling operator that was willing to accept Canadians. Soon, that problem diminished as one offshore gambling site after another started to recognize the immense value of accepting Canadian online gamblers.
While there was nothing stopping Canadians from using offshore gambling sites, online casinos in Canada weren’t permitted to function and operate within their own country. That’s still the case. Effectively, Canadians haven’t had protection by the Canadian government if they chose to gamble online and ran into problems. Yes, there have always been inherent risks associated with using offshore sites that offer very little legal protection for foreigners.
Everything changed in 2009 when the Canadian government began to realize that online gambling was a reality that wasn’t going away. Since they didn’t want to deal with the issue, they decided to pass online gambling regulatory responsibility to the country’s provincial governments.
Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake and Ontario Strike First
About six or seven years ago, the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake, located in Quebec, was the first to start licensing and regulating online operators. They did so through the Kahnawake Commission. This was the first step towards clearing any grey areas related to online gambling in Canada.
It’s important to note that offshore gambling is largely the only legal option for Canadian online gamblers. By forcing offshore sites to secure licensing, Canadian gamblers have been afforded certain protections they weren’t getting before.
In April 2022, Ontario became the first actual province to start licensing and regulating offshore sportsbooks and casinos. To handle this, they set up the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and established 19 years old as its minimum online gambling age.
Other Provinces Join the Fray
In the last few months, several other provinces have followed the lead of Ontario. Here is a current look at Canada’s online gambling regulatory landscape by province.
Alberta: Offshore online gambling is permitted. Residents can also access the Canada-located PlayAlberta.ca website. The Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis Commission serves as the regulatory body. Online gamblers must be at least 18.
British Columbia: Offshore online gambling is permitted. Residents can also access the Canada-located PlayNow website. The Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch of the Ministry of Finance of British Columbia serves as the regulatory body. Online gamblers must be at least 19.
Manitoba: Only offshore online gambling is permitted. The Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation serves as the regulatory body. Online gamblers must be at least 19.
New Brunswick: Only offshore online gambling is permitted. The Gaming Control Branch of the Department of Public Safety serves as the regulatory body. Online gamblers must be at least 19.
Newfoundland and Labrador: Only offshore online gambling through ALC-approved sites is permitted. The Consumer Affairs Division, Consumer and Commercial Affairs Branch of Service NL serves as the regulatory body. Online gamblers must be at least 19.
Nova Scotia: Only offshore online gambling through ALC-approved sites is permitted. The Alcohol, Gaming, Fuel, and Tobacco Division of Service Nova Scotia serves as the regulatory body. Online gamblers must be at least 19.
Ontario: Review information provided in the prior section.
Prince Edward Island: Only offshore online gambling through ALC-approved sites is permitted. The Prince Edward Island Lotteries Commission serves as the regulatory body. Online gamblers must be at least 19.
Quebec: Offshore online gambling and online gambling through the provincial gambling company “Loto-Quebec” is permitted. The company also serves as the province’s regulatory body. Online gamblers must be at least 18.
Saskatchewan: Only offshore online gambling is permitted. The Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority serves as the regulatory body. Online gamblers must be at least 19.
In the future, there is hope that the federal government will take another step forward and allow for Canadian-based online gambling operators. Until that day comes, Canadians can rest easy, knowing they still have access to many of the best online sportsbooks and casinos in the world.
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