Regulations Governing Wagering and Sports Betting in Canada

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Canada’s Criminal Code forbids all forms of gambling.  However, Section 207 of the code allows provincial authorities to “manage and conduct” gambling within their specific jurisdictions. 

As a result of the mandate to manage and conduct gambling on their territory, several Canadian provinces set up local gaming entities, or lottery corporations, to function as distributors of wagering services.  These include, amongst others, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, and Loto-Quebec.

Regulated iGaming Market for Private Operators

When looking at Canada’s gambling industry, it’s apparent that Ontario has been the most progressive in its approach to this market segment.  On 4 April 2022, Ontario became the first province to launch a regulated framework for private operators to provide online gambling in Canada

The aim of this move was to create a safe and secure online gambling environment for end-users through sites that are registered and run by authorised operators.  All newly licensed providers are verified by iGaming Ontario, a subsidiary of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, which has been given the sole mandate by the local government to manage this market segment.

The iGaming model is based on delivering online gambling services by private operators on behalf of the government via a commercial relationship with a local body.  Other Canadian provinces offer online gambling platforms exclusively via government lottery corporations, leaving the private sector without a prospect to participate in the market.   

However, with the adoption of the new market framework in Ontario, it is expected that other provinces will soon follow suit.  The focus now shifts to Quebec and British Columbia, where the most significant percentage of the remaining online gambling market in the country lies.

Evolution of Sports Betting Regulations

While 2022 proved to be a fruitful year for iGaming with the developments in Ontario, we shouldn’t overlook the advances made in the sports betting arena.  Like gambling, bookmaking has had its ups and downs in Canada. 

Although sports betting has been permitted since 1910, Canada’s Criminal Code explicitly banned betting on single-game sports events.  This meant that the local punters could only make parlay bets, which had to be made up of a minimum of two events tied together into one bet.  The disadvantage of this system was that, should any parlay bet lose, the entire bundle would lose.

However, this changed in July 2021, when Bill C-218, previously passed in both houses of the Canadian parliament, received a Royal Assent.  This meant that Canadians could now place bets on single-game sports matches.  As a result, Canadian punters can now bet on anything from Super Bowl to the Stanley Cup finals and various other sports events that were previously impossible to bet on due to the previous legal framework.

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