How Does Online Gambling in Canada Work?
History of Gambling and Online Gambling in Canada
Canada is a unique place, renowned for its friendly locals, bustling cities, breath-taking natural wonders, and a rich history that spans millennia. In addition, it is in its pre-colonial past that we find the first mentions of rudimentary gambling practices in what is today Canada.
In fact, the indigenous communities of the Pacific Northwest were the forerunners of Canadian wagering. As early as the last ice age, these nomadic tribesmen played a game called slahal, in which male warriors would face off one another in duels of skill and luck.
When John Cabot first landed in Canada in 1497, he brought with him established norms that governed the European way of life, although gambling was, at the time, still viewed with much disdain. In 1660, Charles II legalised gambling in England and its overseas possessions. This idyl then lasted until 1892, when Canada’s new Criminal Code outlawed all wagering.
However, by 1900, the authorities rolled back some restrictions, allowing games like bingo and raffles. In 1910, sports betting laws were tweaked, and an amendment to the legislation in the mid-1920s permitted the hosting of raffles by bodies other than charities. In 1969, the government greenlighted the lotteries, which eventually proved very useful when it came to the financing of the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.
Almost a century after the outright ban on all forms of gambling, we witnessed the opening of Canada’s first land-based casino in Winnipeg in 1989. With the advent of online gambling in Canada, provinces set up their own controlled online wagering platforms to limit the use of offshore providers. In April 2022, Ontario became the first Canadian province to introduce a regulated iGaming market for private online gambling providers.
What Defines a Top Online Casino?
When evaluating the attractiveness of online casinos, prospective punters first look at what they get in return for spending their hard-earned money. One of the most effective drawcards of any online casino is its bonus offer. Some of the most common bonuses include:
- Welcome bonus
- Deposit bonus
- No deposit bonus
- Loyalty bonus
- Cashback bonus
- Free spins
Another factor that defines a top-notch site for online gambling in Canada that keeps casino gameplay fair is the use of random number generators (RNGs). These are sophisticated computer algorithms that ensure all the game results are arbitrary.
Random number generators have revolutionised the way online casinos operate and have added an extra layer of security for players each time they drop a coin. Different types of RNGs are used for various functions, with the casino industry most often using pseudo-random number generators.
Besides freebies, customer support ranks highly among top online casinos. Services like around-the-clock availability, multilingual support, accessibility via different communication channels such as email, phone, fax, and live chat, and a comprehensive FAQ section on the website are necessary.
Premium online casinos also offer multiple payment methods for players to deposit money and withdraw their winnings. Besides the more common credit card transactions, Canadian players also prefer to use Interac, a payment method developed exclusively for the local market that facilitates payments in Canadian dollars.
In addition, all reputable top online casinos in Canada undergo regular audits from eCOGRA, a leading internationally approved testing agency that specialises in the inspection, assessment and certification of online gambling systems and software. eCOGRA was established to achieve the objectives of fair gaming, player protection, and responsible conduct by operators, software developers and relevant service providers.
Online Casino Games in Canada
The Canadian gambling market can be classified as mature, offering numerous wagering and betting options to the locals. Here are a few of the Canadian punters’ firm online casino game favourites:
- Bingo and raffles– although charities initially ran bingo and raffles, further legislative amendments gave other institutions the option to operate these too.
- Lotto– lotteries have been legal in Canada since 1969, with the benefit becoming apparent when their proceeds were used to fund the Montreal Olympics in 1976. Today, some of the most popular lotteries played in Canada include:
- Lotto 6/49– the first nationwide Canadian lottery game that allowed players to select their own numbers
- Powerball– US lottery that Canadians can participate in using an online lottery service system
- Lotto Max– one of Canada’s three national lotteries run by the Interprovincial Lottery Corporation
- Powerball– yet another US lottery that is readily available and extremely popular among Canadian players
- Daily Grand– along with Lotto 6/49 and Lotto Max, Daily Grand is the third national lottery that’s played in Canada
- Keno – although a form of bingo, keno has some unique characteristics. Originating in 19th-century China as an 80-ball lottery, the modern game of keno is played online and lets you control how you wish to play, with up to two draws taking place daily.
- Slots – the favourite online casino game among Canadian gamblers
- Table games – other popular online wagering games enjoyed by Canadians primarily include poker, as well as games such as blackjack, craps, European and American roulette, baccarat, sic bo, and pai gow
- Sports betting – Canadians love to bet on sports, with horse racing being particularly popular, followed by football, hockey, basketball and soccer.
Statistics About Gamblers and Gambling in Canada
Since one of the largest markets in the world for in-house and online gambling is based in Canada, it offers an insightful array of statistics when it comes to the industry. Here are a few interesting facts about gambling in Canada:
- The number of casinos in Canada keeps increasing– since 2002, the number of Canadian brick-and-mortar casinos has more than doubled, with the market averaging three electronic gambling machines per player
- Canadians prefer lottery and scratch cards – According to 2019 stats, 65% of Canadians who participated in some form of gambling activities played lottery, 36% preferred scratch cards, and 22% frequented casinos.
- Ontario is the largest gambling market in Canada – Ontario generates the most significant amount of gambling revenue in Canada, followed by Quebec and British Columbia.
- The majority of Canadian gamblers are between the ages of 35 and 50 – younger players prefer gambling online while older ones wager at more traditional brick-and-mortar establishments.
- The legal age for gambling varies across Canada – depending on the province, the legal age for gambling varies between 18 and 19.
- Canada is the eighth largest gambling market globally – there are over 20 million active gamblers in Canada.
- Canadian risky gambling is below the global average – according to the Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario, 3,2% of Canadians are addicted to gambling, with further 2% admitting to seeing themselves as problem gamblers, which, albeit worrying, is below the global average.
Finding Legal Online Casinos in Canada
The internet is peppered with gambling websites, although selecting the ones that are genuine and legit is not always the most straightforward task. That’s why you must know how to choose legal online casinos in Canada and avoid fraudulent ones that’re set up to drain your wallet.
One of the first things to look out for is a casino licence. A respected gaming authority licenses every reputable online casino. This can either be the local Kahnawake Gaming Commission or an overseas body like the Malta Gaming Authority. Additionally, a mention of a recent software audit done by eCOGRA should also feature on the website.
Another key criterion of your search should be verifying that your preferred online casino website has SSL encryption. This encryption guarantees a secure transfer of your personal details between your device and the casino’s online server.
Additionally, a legal platform for online gambling in Canada always offers various payment methods, including credit cards, wire transfers, e-wallets, or even using a cryptocurrency. These payment options should be available both for deposits and for withdrawal of winnings. And, to keep your mind at ease, a 24-hour customer service team should be on standby to address any of your concerns.
Finally, look at the software providers that an online casino uses. If the games didn’t originate in the studios of renowned developers, the chances are that they are neither too captivating nor offer enough opportunities for you to win.
Top Casino Software Providers in Canada
A key trademark of legal online casinos is their partnerships with reputable casino software providers. Top software developing companies have been in the business for a long time. They are guaranteed to offer the end-users a high-quality and up-to-date gambling experience each time they log onto a casino website.
Some of the top gambling software providers are:
- NetEnt– NetEntertainment is a pioneer of the online gambling in Canada, having been established in 1996. NetEnt is best known to Canadian players for classics like Vikings, Gonzo’s Quest, and Lost Relics.
- Playtech – Playtech is best known for its respectable range of online slots. Playtech slots are known to have above-average payout percentages. Besides popular casino titles like Jackpot Giant, Age of Gods, The Matrix, and Superman, Playtech offers some quality bingo gaming options.
- Microgaming – Being the first company ever to create online casino software, Microgaming has been pushing out quality games since 1994. Today, Microgaming is amongst the most popular software providers for online casinos globally and has over 600 international casino brands using its software. Additionally, its Mega Moolah game awarded the biggest online casino payout to date.
- Evolution Gaming– Evolution Gaming is a leading B2B online casino provider that offers services via multiple devices and channels. In 2020, Evolution acquired the NetEnt brand and all its gaming titles, as well as another popular gambling software provider, Red Tiger Gaming.
Canadian Online Casinos vs Land-Based
Technological advancements have made our lives more convenient. We can now work from home, order food and beverages via smartphone apps, and even gamble online from the comfort of our armchairs. What is the difference between Canadian online casinos versus land-based ones? Here are some key differentiators:
Land-based casinos are modelled on the original type of gambling houses that first emerged in Europe in the 17th century. The advantage of going to a live gambling venue is that you get to experience the real hustle and bustle of a casino. You also have more time to think about your next move, and you contribute directly to the local economy when you spend your money.
However, the main issue with land-based casinos is that they offer a narrowed-down variety of games because of limited space. In addition, if you have agoraphobia, a crowded casino might seem like the last place you would want to be when looking for fun things to do.
On the other hand, online gambling in Canada is all about convenience. They are open 24/7, and you can play your favourite games from your couch, bathtub, bed, or even while sitting on a toilet! Online casinos are also known for their generous incentives like bonuses that often outmatch similar freebies offered by their land-based counterparts.
However, the most critical factor favouring online casinos is no interaction between people. This means you can play in peace while simultaneously enjoying all the privacy that you require to help you focus on the gameplay.
Factors that Determine Whether You’re Gambling Legally in Canada
The lawfulness of gambling varies from country to country, and what might appear legal in one place could be deemed illegal in another. If you are a regular gambler based in Canada, you should be aware of the local and federal laws that govern wagering.
The best way to ensure that you stick to the letter of the law when it comes to online gambling in Canada is to gamble through regulated online gambling providers. Regulated providers are either endorsed by a local body, such as iGaming Ontario in Ontario, or possess a licence from a renowned international gaming authority, such as the Malta Gaming Authority.
Another vital factor to consider is the legal gambling age. In Canada, you must be 19 or older to gamble, except in the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec, where the legal gambling age is 18. Similarly, the minimum legal age for playing the lottery in Canada is 18, although this limit is 19 in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Be aware that sports betting on certain spectator events is strictly forbidden and attending these could get you in hot water with the authorities. Betting on cock and dog fights is illegal since it promotes animal cruelty and almost always ends up in severe injury to an animal or even its death.
Opening an online casino requires a licence from a relevant regulatory body or a local authority. The licence guarantees that an online casino operation is legitimate, and all payouts are guaranteed. A Canadian gambling licence is generally required for all activities relating to online gambling in Canada, including slot games, table games, sports betting, and lottery.
There are many international gaming regulators and licensing bodies, with the Malta Gaming Authority, the UK Gambling Commission, and the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority being some of the most reputable ones. In Canada, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission oversees over 50 licensed operators across Canada and is the largest regulatory body for online casinos and sportsbooks in North America.
Additionally, several Canadian provinces have their own provincial gaming watchdogs. These include the British Columbia Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, Nova Scotia Alcohol and Gaming Authority, Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, and the Québec Régie des Alcools des Courses et des Jeux. Together, these agencies regulate casinos to guarantee that the end-users enjoy a secure online gambling experience.
The federal Criminal Code of Canada generally forbids all forms of gambling. However, Section 207 of the code allows provincial governments to “manage and conduct” gambling within their specific jurisdictions.
When looking at Canada’s gambling industry, one could say that Ontario has been the most progressive in its approach. On 4 April 2022, Ontario became the first province to launch a regulated market for private operators to offer online gambling in Canada. The iGaming market model is based on delivering online gaming by private providers on behalf of the government through a commercial relationship with a provincial body. Other Canadian provinces continue to offer online gambling platforms exclusively via government lottery corporations, leaving the private sector without an opportunity to participate in the market.
Of course, one can’t overlook the progression of Canadian gambling regulations and laws to fully comprehend how far the country has come when it comes to wagering. While 2022 has been a fruitful year for iGaming with the strides taken in Ontario, we shouldn’t overlook the progress made concerning sports betting. Like gambling, betting on sports has had its ups and downs in Canada.
Although legally permitted since 1910, the Canadian Criminal Code specifically banned betting on single-game sports events. This meant that the locals could only make parlay bets, which had to be made up of at least two events tied together into one bet.
However, this all changed in July 2021, when Bill C-218, previously passed in the Canadian parliament, received a Royal Assent. This technically meant that Canadians could now place bets on single-game sports events. As a result, Canadian punters can now unhinderedly bet on anything from Super Bowl to Stanley Cup finals and numerous other sports events that were previously impossible to wager on due to the previous legal framework.
Benjamin Franklin once observed that nothing in this world is certain except death and taxes. Love it or loathe it, gambling taxation plays an essential role in the world of gambling. Therefore, it might come as a surprise that Canadians do not have to pay any taxes for online gambling in Canada. This includes online casinos, lotteries, sports betting, horse racing, and any other game of chance.
However, if you in any way earn interest on your winnings, you must declare that amount, which then becomes taxable. If you try to circumvent this obligation, you risk being slapped with a hefty fine by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Additionally, professional gamblers who make their living from games of luck must declare all their winnings to the taxman.
Nevertheless, it’s interesting to note that, so far, the CRA hasn’t been most efficient when it comes to auditing those individuals whose primary source of income stems from gambling. This ineptitude has made some professional gamblers in Canada very rich, very quickly.
When looking at the larger North American market, it is interesting to note that gambling tax laws south of the border are far more stringent. US citizens are expected to cough up close to half of their winnings to the taxman. This is true for any winning that exceeds US$1,200. And for those who think that they are smart enough to try and duck this obligation, think again. When you walk up to the cage all excited about cashing out your big jackpot win, 30 per cent of your winnings is automatically deducted from your stash.