Online Casinos Canada

Canadian Online CasinosA lot of Canadians don’t realize just how good they have things when it comes to enjoying online casino games. In some countries, online gambling is legal but you are restricted to only a few sanctioned sites, which can really limit your experience. Canadians can select from among the very best online casinos out there, with the full confidence of having the law on their side while being able to pick the casinos that they wish to play at and not just ones on a shorter list.

With such a wide-open field, which includes the best of the best, the task of finding a great online casino would seem easy for Canadians, but better choices than people in some countries have does not eliminate the need for proper diligence. It may even more important when we consider that we may miss out on more if there is better out there that we’re not aware of. We are here to guide you in this journey.

Are Online Casinos Legal in Canada?

The legality of online casino gambling in Canada is described by many as being in a “grey area,” but the greyness here applies not to the laws but the greyness of understanding about them out there.

Those outside the legal profession often misunderstand the scope of the law and confuse legal prohibition and regulation. We’re all familiar with the prohibitive side of the law, where various acts are deemed illegal and we break the law when we commit them. Acting in violation of regulations is also illegal, like operating a business without a license.

There is a third realm here, those acts which are neither prohibited or regulated, and this encompasses most of our activities. The law is silent about how often you need to brush your teeth for instance, and this is not a grey area, it is an area that the law does not address. There is nothing grey here. This is the realm that offshore online gambling in Canada falls into.

Current Legal Environment in Canada

Like in the United States, gambling regulation in Canada is not decided at the federal level but at the provincial level. Each province gets to decide how much gambling they wish to regulate and how they wish to do it.

Unlike in the U.S., Canada does make it a federal crime to operate gambling establishments unless otherwise permitted by law. This has served to confuse some people who think that not allowing gambling establishments and not allowing people to gamble is the same thing. It sure used to be, but the internet has changed everything.

The Canadian government has never had a problem with their people going down to Vegas to gamble, and for many years, Canada did not have any sort of regulated gambling. However, they don’t have the power to regulate gambling in other countries and have never pretended that they do, unlike the Americans.

Regulated gambling has come a long way in Canada since the country rolled out its first legal lottery almost 50 years ago, and much like in the U.S., land-based casino gambling has really grown and provincial authorities have recently added online gambling to their offerings.

These provincially run sites aren’t really very competitive with offshore online casinos though and substantially rely on gamblers not really being in the know to want to play with them, those who are not aware enough of either their ability to play elsewhere or the inferior nature of these Canadian run sites.

Some might think that if federal law makes it a crime to operate a casino without explicit legal approval in Canada that this means that gambling at such a casino would be illegal as well, but this view is confused and mistaken. This is essentially the same as saying you can’t go to Vegas.

The Canadian Criminal Code both makes it an offense to operate a “illegal gaming house” in Canada as well as to be present at one, but for a “gaming house” to be illegal, it must be located in Canada. Gambling operations located outside of Canada are beyond Canada’s jurisdiction and are therefore outside the scope of this legislation.

In order to be charged under this provision, the gaming establishment must first be deemed illegal under Canadian law, which first requires that it be subject to Canadian law in the first place. Offshore online gambling operations are entirely outside its scope, and it is therefore not possible for Canadian authorities to deem them to be operating contrary to their laws because they aren’t even subject to them.

If the offshore sites that we play at from Canada cannot be deemed to be illegal, or playing there cannot be illegal either, as it requires the “gaming house” to be first found to be operating illegally under Canadian law, and that requires that the operation be subject to Canadian law. That is not the case here. There is no grey, this is black and white, and we are completely in the white.

Even Canadian Gaming Companies Operate Freely in Canada

Since running contrary to Canadian law requires that the gaming houses in question be located in Canada, as long as this isn’t the case, gaming companies can freely host their operations in Canada as long as the gaming itself is not being run from Canada.

There are a lot of companies related to the gaming industry that run their operations from Canada, either supporting the industry or in some cases offer gaming to players directly, and as long as their servers aren’t located in Canada, the presumed gaming house itself, they do this in full compliance with the law. There’s nothing grey about this either.

With this said, Canada does have the curious situation of having a big gambling operation existing within its borders for many years, on the Kahnawake Indian Reserve in the province of Quebec. Most consider that clearly in the black area of the black and white scale, but this is actually where shades of grey come in.

Aside from the Indians’ claims of treaty rights to conduct this operation outside the scope of the White Man’s law, seen by them as akin to hunting and fishing rights, the ability to earn a livelihood, there is also at least some question as to whether this activity violates the Criminal Code even if it does apply to them.

This provision of the Code was written during much simpler times, where the gaming house and partaking in gaming were necessarily located in the same place. The fact that the gaming that goes on by using their servers elsewhere does at least muddy the waters, as it isn’t so clear where the gaming actually takes place with online gambling. Much of the legal opinion out there actually has it occurring on the player’s side.

This at least calls into question whether what goes on in Indian territory even consists of running a gaming house, especially in cases where the Indians don’t run the sites themselves but act as a third party providing only computing services.

Even when they do run the games, it is at least questionable whether offering gaming offshore is within the scope of Canadian law or fits the definition of a gaming house in Canada. This is behind the Indian run sites being reluctant to accept Canadians in the past, at a time where they were the only ones that didn’t, curiously enough.

As players, we need not worry about any of this as we can simply play at whatever online gaming sites accept Canadians, and a lot do.

The Fallout from the UIGEA Blows North

The pullout by many online casinos from the United States has been voluntary, where the bigger sites simply decided that it was no longer worth the bother to offer play to Americans with the U.S. government on the warpath. Whether or not U.S. authorities have a valid claim or not, this hasn’t stopped them from sounding off warnings and in some cases even obtaining indictments against offshore gambling operators.

There have also been cases where parties under indictment have been foolish enough to visit the U.S. and have been arrested, so this isn’t just blowing a lot of smoke if you choose to walk through it. The UIGEA has been mostly a campaign of fear, but it has also scared away a few casino operators from doing business in Canada as well, given that the two countries are so close partners.

Canada has also taken action to impede the flow of money to offshore gambling sites under the guise of anti-money laundering legislation. While gambling online isn’t in itself money laundering, although it can be used to accomplish this, it has been caught up in this climate of overcautiousness. This includes not only effects upon using payment methods at online casinos, as Canada also has broader prohibitions against cryptocurrencies, which have impacted their use on online gaming sites as well, deeming the use of these currencies risky in itself regardless of their purpose.

It’s not that Canadians don’t use cybercurrency such as Bitcoin, but don’t tell your bank as they will seek to stop you. The anonymous nature of cybercurrency has banks worried about this being used for any purpose and they are making this harder now.

The UIGEA also has impacted credit card transactions in Canada as well, especially since credit card processors are located in the United States. It’s not that they have any problems with gambling transactions in many countries, but are not made comfortable enough to want to fund transactions not regulated in the country of origin, and Canada’s isn’t.

The Online Casino Scene in Canada Today

While online gambling in Canada may be perfectly legal, either at a provincially regulated site or at one located anywhere else in the world, the lack of a competitive regulatory environment in Canada still has many players choosing to play at offshore sites instead.

This may change one day, although Canada suffers from the same issue as the United States does, with the power to regulate these things being vested in regional governments which approach these things like they do the lottery, and also operate like they have a monopoly when they clearly don’t.

This ends up having clearly inferior domestic operations trying to compete with superior ones elsewhere, where they may get a fair bit of business from those who remain uninformed about the true nature of the market but fail to capture those more in the know. In the era of social media, word travels faster and more effectively and many Canadians are not fooled.

While there are some casinos that just won’t take Canadians, a lot do, and there is a wide selection of sites that Canadians can play their favorite casino games at. This includes gaining access to some of the best online casino sites in the world, with all the latest and greatest games and top-notch bonuses, service, and support.

The more choices you have though, the more important it is to have a knowledgeable guide to lead you in the right direction and especially away from the pitfalls out there, and this is where we come in. We know the Canadian online casino scene, and we especially know what makes a great online casino and which ones are.

Canadian Online Casinos FAQ

  • Isn’t it a crime for Canadians to gamble online?

    The Canadian Criminal Code makes it an offense to operate an illegal gaming house in Canada and for people to be found in one. For this law to apply, the establishment in question must be located in Canada, not elsewhere, beyond the reach of Canadian law. There are therefore two requirements needed for this law to apply to players, the illegal gaming house must be in Canada and players need to be found to be physically present at one. None of this applies to offshore gambling.

  • Is Canadian law really “grey” when it comes to offshore online casino gambling?

    There are plenty of places where the law is unclear whether certain forms of gambling are legal or not, and this often comes down to how existing law is to be interpreted by the courts. We call these grey areas. Canada is not one of those places as there are no laws against offshore online gambling whatsoever. Canadians can play casino games with confidence at whichever casinos accept them.

  • Why have some online casinos decided not to accept Canadians anymore?

    Online casinos mostly decide on their own whether to accept players from other countries, and historically they have had no trouble with allowing Canadians to play at their casinos. However, some operators mistakenly question the legality of this, thinking it’s a grey area country, has caused some operators to withdraw from the market in order to appease their regulators who also hold this mistaken belief. There are still many good places that Canadians can play at though.

  • Has anyone ever been charged with illegal online gambling in Canada?

    In some jurisdictions, governments go all out to make online gambling at sites located in other countries illegal. They pass clear laws that make this activity illegal, and even go as far as requiring your internet provider to block offshore gambling sites. This doesn’t stop players from doing it, and having a law and being able to enforce it are two separate things. There is no law in Canada against online gambling to enforce in the first place, even if such a law could be enforced.

  • Do Canadians need to worry about the law in the countries where their sites are located?

    While Canada is not one of the countries that license online gambling hosted outside its borders, there are many jurisdictions that do. Offshore casino sites are regulated in one of these countries, and if the government provides regulation of something, it is not only permitted under the law there but explicitly permitted. Canadians can therefore play casino games at these sites with the full confidence that the sites are operating in full compliance with applicable laws.

  • Why does a lack of Canadian regulation permit Canadians to gamble online?

    Governments may either prohibit certain activities or permit them under certain circumstances, by way of regulation. Only situations under a government’s legal control can be regulated by them, they need the power to regulate first. Canada does not have the power to require that they regulate online gambling in other countries, which is left to the particular country. Canada could still prohibit their residents from gambling online if they wished to pass a law, but they don’t, and they haven’t.

  • Why can’t I use my Canadian credit cards to deposit anymore?

    In the aftermath of the UIGEA, banks and credit card processing companies have taken a cautious approach to allowing Canadians to use their cards to fund gambling accounts. While they have no problem allowing them to be used in countries where gambling is explicitly legal and regulated, Canada’s implicit allowance of this doesn’t quite meet their high standard and they have chosen to disallow the practice. It’s still easy enough to deposit though through other means.

  • Why have Canadian banks restricted the use of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin?

    Many online casino players enjoy the convenience and privacy of using digital currency like Bitcoin to deposit and withdraw from offshore online casinos. While it’s completely legal in Canada to use these currencies, Canadian banks have recently sought to prohibit the use of them, not to single out gamblers but due to general anti-money laundering concerns as well as protecting clients from fluctuations. They can’t stop you from buying it with non-crypto digital wallets though.

  • How good are the online casinos that happily take Canadian players?

    In spite of some online gambling sites no longer accepting Canadians, they enjoy a much wider selection of online casinos than Americans do, with some of the biggest and highest rated casinos in the world available for your gambling pleasure. Canadians are generally welcomed with open arms by online casinos, although it’s still important to know the good ones from the not so great ones and especially avoid the terrible ones.

  • Do Canadians need to pay taxes on gambling winnings?

    Gambling winnings, including winnings at casinos, are exempt from income or other taxes in Canada, provided that one does not earn one’s living by way of the proceeds of gambling. This is especially valuable if you hit a jackpot where you get to keep all of the loot and not have to share it with the government. This makes the excitement of shooting for big jackpots even more intense, as you really do win that amount of money and don’t have to do any math to figure this out.

Lead Writer: Toby is a very experienced online gambler who particularly enjoys sharing his knowledge with others and guiding them toward more enjoyment in their own play.