Whether on account of its noisy neighbour to the south, or simply because its citizens don’t like to make a song and a dance about things, Canada’s gaming industry is largely overlooked.
Naturally, its natives are well aware of their fellow countrymen’s penchant for gambling, but ask the average European to list the world’s major gaming territories and Canada won’t even make the top ten. It’s a strange one, because in reality not only do Canadians love their casinos and roulette, but the country is responsible for producing a trove of major gaming developers, who operate out of cities such as Vancouver.
Whereas the United States has banned gambling at federal level, in Canada it’s encouraged, so long as it’s done in a responsible manner. Due to the sheer size of the country, regulation of its gambling industry falls to its ten provinces and three territories. As such, the laws governing gambling in Canada differ slightly from province to province.
Canadians are fond of gambling in all its forms, from roulette to purchasing lottery tickets and playing bingo. Like the United States, Canada has its share of underground gambling, but for the most part, it’s above board and conducted legitimately.
A Short History of Canadian Gambling
Unlike the US, the Canadian government has capitalised on the revenue to be made from gambling, enabling it to flourish from as early as the late 60s. That’s when changes to the law enabled provinces and territories to raise money through lotteries. From there, it was only a matter of time until horse racing, bingo, video lottery terminals and casino gambling including roulette were legalised and regulated.
When the first casinos sprung up on the web in the late 90s, one territory was swift to spot its potential – the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory in Quebec. The Kahnawake Gambling Commission was launched in 1999 and the territory has served as a magnet for online casino operators ever since.
Canadian Casino Gambling
There are just three Canadian provinces that don’t feature casinos: Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland & Labrador. Everywhere else you roam, you’ll encounter walk-in casinos stocked with roulette and blackjack tables including such famous and majestic premises as Quebec’s Mont-Tremblant and the tourist-thronged Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort.
While a handful of the country’s big casinos are glitzy Vegas-style affairs, the majority are more modest, in keeping with the country’s unshowy aesthetic. The minimum age to enter a Canadian casino is 19, save for Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec where it’s 18.
The Law and Online Gambling in Canada
When it comes to gambling – not just in Canada but in many countries – things are rarely black and white. Grey areas seem to be synonymous with online gambling, which is partially a reflection of how the law struggles to keep pace with the rate at which the internet evolves, changing the way in which we do everything from shopping to gambling.
As it stands, it is not illegal to play roulette or other gambling games online as a Canadian citizen, even if the law does not explicitly state that it is legal to do so. The Canadian government has never charged one of its citizens with gambling online at an overseas casino, recognising that there is no practical means of enforcing what people choose to do on the internet.
Just as Canadian territories and provinces have the right to enact laws regarding land-based casinos, they can regulate online gambling in the same manner. This has led to a slew of online casinos springing up in territories such as Kahnawake, operating under the jurisdiction of the Kahnawake Gambling Commission.
One of the key differences between US and Canadian law is that sports betting is perfectly legal in Canada. The only restriction in Canada is that sports bets must be parlays i.e combos that involve 3 or more matches.
When it comes to taxes, the Canadian government doesn’t tax gambling winnings. Unless you’re a professional poker player pocketing large sums on a regular basis, the government will take no interest in your casino winnings. If you’re partial to roulette, you can play without fear of taxes being levied against anything you withdraw.
What’s the Deal with the Kahnawake Gambling Commission?
If you have cause to play roulette at a number of online casinos, you may have noticed that an inordinate amount of them appear to be licensed by the Kahnawake Gambling Commission.
Why are there so many virtual casinos registered in this comparatively small piece of land? Kahnawake is to Canada what Curacao is to the Caribbean: a semi-autonomous zone that largely does its own thing and attracts gambling firms on account of its low taxes, among other things.
While the Kahnawake Gambling Commission is responsible for overseeing a good number of bona fide Canadian gambling companies, many more hail from overseas, with their registration in Kahnawake solely for regulatory purposes rather than their penchant for Canadian winters.
Popular Forms of Online Gambling in Canada
Much like the rest of the world, Canadians are fond of their casinos, and the web-based casinos that are registered in Canadian territories do a roaring trade in roulette, blackjack, slots and all the other casino staples.
Poker is particularly popular, as it is in North America as a whole, and so is sports betting, in keeping with the Canadians’ penchant for winter sports including ice hockey. Bingo also enjoys its share of Canadian players, though in terms of average spend, the amount wagered at online bingo is tiny in comparison to poker and sports.
The number of online casinos where Canadian roulette players are welcomed is substantial. Typically, any casino where players from Britain and mainland Europe are eligible to play, the same holds true for Canadian players, despite the vast expanse of the Atlantic separating them.
Due to the Canadian government’s laissez-faire attitude to gambling, site operators feel comfortable with welcoming Canadian roulette players in the knowledge that they’re not going to have their accounts frozen or prompt an unwelcome investigation into the site’s dealings.
At some casinos, Canadian players may be excluded from certain deposit bonuses, or offered alternative deals, but this is purely for banking rather than legal reasons. Canada even has its own alternative payment service, UseMyFunds, which is popular with native online gamblers.
The Future of Gambling in Canada
With few restrictions holding it back, the gambling market in Canada is only going to grow further in the next few years. Expect to see an increase in the number of online casinos and dedicated roulette sites electing to register themselves in Indian territories, coupled with an increase in the number of genuine Canadian casinos, poker and bingo sites springing up to cater for the demand for gaming.
Is gambling legal in Canada?
Yes, real world and virtual gambling are both legal.
How popular is gambling in Canada?
As popular as it is in any other developed nation – perhaps more so. Canadians are fond of roulette and the country is home to a significant number of gaming developers who specialise in table games. It’s also a haven for online casinos, many of which are registered with the Kahnawake Gambling Commission.
What are the requirements in order to gamble in Canada?
You must be 18 or 19 depending on the province you’re in.
How is gambling regulated in Canada?
It falls to each of the country’s provinces or territories to set their own laws concerning gambling.
Are gambling winnings taxed by the Canadian government?
What’s the deal with betting online at overseas casinos?
Canadian law doesn’t specify the legality of gambling at casinos registered outside of the country, but players who do so are not prosecuted.