Legality of Online Gambling

What Is the Legality of Online Gambling in Canada?

In Canada, one of the most popular entertainment activities is playing casino games, but the local gambling laws are a tad complicated. Beyond the lack of clarity in some of the regulations related to land-based and online casinos, it is legal for Canadians to play games. For those that want to be the best online casino in Canada; however, there are grey areas in the restrictions that the government has put in place to protect citizens within its jurisdiction.

Provincial laws govern the gambling rules in Canada, but the internet is an international regulated system that doesn’t observe national boundaries. The laws that oversee online gambling are based in the licensing hubs of Cyprus, Malta, Isle of Man or the UK, where governments have thrown the regulatory doors wide to welcome the tax revenues. In Canada, similar to New Zealand and other regions, no online casino provider is allowed to operate gaming rooms within the country.

The paradox, however, is that most of the offshore gaming companies have based their servers in the Kahnawake native reserve, which is a territory of Canada. So the illegality only occurs when the online gambling provider is based inside Canadian and not their systems or the availability of services to Canadians in their own homes.

History of the gambling industry in Canada

At the beginning of legislation on gambling in Canada, casino gaming was initially legal, but an 1892 legislation made it unlawful. By the 1900s, this law relaxed to allow casual raffles and bingo at charitable events, and ten years later, betting at horse racing was legalized. In 1985, a significant breakthrough in gambling regulation happened when gaming machines such as slots became legal, and land-based casinos started to mushroom in the country.

The provinces in Canada are able to license and grant operational regulation to casinos under the Canadian criminal code. This is the law that determines what is legal or illegal gaming activity within Canada is, and web-based casinos are included in its regulation.  The Canadian criminal code defines the conducting or taking part in gambling activities as illegal except for the specified inclusions.

Current legislation provides that provincial Canadian governments can control and organize lotteries operated physically or through the internet. The criminal code’s parts VII and section 207 list the exceptions to the illegality of online gambling within Canada’s territories, but give the mandate to provincial authorities to conduct online gaming themselves.

Kahnawake Gaming Commission

The right and responsibility of issuing licenses or regulating web-based gaming activities is an entitlement of the special Kahnawake Gaming Commission. Situated in the Mohawk territory of Kahnawake in Quebec, the gaming commission has under its control three brick and mortar poker rooms within the region. As a result of the commissions licensing criteria, the Canadian government has increased the favorability of internet casinos with provinces left to control, regulate and monitor the gaming environment.

The Kahnawake gaming commission operates on principles of fair gaming, guaranteed payouts and geographical reference to offer four types of gambling licenses. All forms of gambling are now legal in Canada, except for the granting of licenses to locally based online casino companies. Each of the Canadian provinces has the power to decide which form of legalization they give to online gambling within their territory, and this is considered the foot-in-the-door for Canadian online casino operators.

Transactions in Canada for online gambling

Since the more significant part of online casino gaming sites is offshore, Canadian based players have some difficulty in accessing some international payment methods.  In Canada, for instance, some online casinos do not accept the ubiquitous visa debit or credit card, while restrictions in the manner of setting up payment accounts exist. Third-party money transfer sites, wire transfers and accepted payment methods are some of the considerations for online gamblers in Canada.


The Criminal Code doesn’t help much with the specifics that only the Canadian government and the provincial authorities can operate gambling practices. The exception to the rule is Kahnawake Mohawk Nation and its gaming commission, which can license its websites for gamers within Canada. Though the action was vehemently opposed by some of the country’s major legal players, no action has been taken so far to deter the Kahnawake Gaming Commission from its online gambling allowance policies.

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