Betting and real money gaming are popular activities in Canada. Like some other parts of the world, gambling laws can be fairly complicated. Several forms of government approved offline gambling are perfectly legal, along with a few forms of online gambling. Yet, the laws surrounding gambling with companies based overseas aren’t very clear.
On this page, we provide a basic overview of Canadian gambling laws, with details of what is allowed and what is not. We also offer some information on the laws relating to online gambling and how they affect you. Additionally, we have explained about the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, a regulatory body based within Canadian borders.
We also keep this page updated, if and when necessary, to reflect any changes to legislation that affects gambling in Canada.
Historically, gambling laws in Canada were very strict. Only very limited forms of gambling were allowed. However, drastic changes to legislation in the 1970s relaxed things quite significantly. The reformed Criminal Code gave the individual provinces within Canada the authority to license and regulate gambling in their own regions.
This ultimately resulted in the opening of a number of land based casinos throughout the country. Several of the provincial governments started operating their own lotteries and still do to this day. There are also now several government approved sports betting outlets, mostly run by an organization called Sports Select. These betting operations are known by different names in the different provinces, and although they represent a perfectly legal way to bet on sports, they only offer fairly limited ways to bet.
Things get a little more complex when it comes to online gambling. Some of the provinces operate their own online casinos and most of the government approved betting outlets allow you to place wagers over the internet. It’s perfectly legal for Canadians to use these and also to purchase lottery tickets online.
What is illegal is to provide online gambling services of any kind to Canadian citizens unless approved and licensed by the government. The laws on this are quite clear. The real gray area is for companies that are based and operated overseas, but allow Canadians to use their gambling sites. At first glance, this would be appear to be illegal under Canadian law. However, if the companies are based somewhere where online gambling is legal, then it could be argued that the Canadian laws don’t apply.
If you live in Canada and want to gamble online, then you are probably not too concerned about whether a site is approved by the government or not. You are more likely to worry about whether using an overseas gambling site yourself is considered illegal. Because of the legislation currently in place it’s difficult to state with any confidence whether it is or not.
There’s no Canadian law that specifically makes gambling online legal. Equally, there is not one that specifically makes it illegal. There is an old law that says it’s illegal to be found in a “common betting house,” and while this is obviously an outdated term, there’s still the argument that this law could apply to an individual using an online gambling site.
However, to the best of our knowledge no Canadian citizen has ever been arrested, charged, or got into any kind of legal trouble for betting or gaming at an overseas site. While this doesn’t make anything clear cut, it does suggest that you have nothing to worry about if you do wish to gamble online.
The biggest drawback for you is that, outside of the government and state approved operations, there’s no regulation in Canada for online gambling sites. However, this should not turn you away, because you can choose to simply play at a reputable site that’s licensed and regulated in a different online gambling jurisdiction.
See our list of recommended and reputable Canadian gambling sites.
We should make reference to the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, which is based on the Indian reserve of Kahnawake located inside Canadian borders. They license gambling sites, providing they operate from within Kahnawake and meet certain criteria.
There have been many questions raised about the legalities of this organization operating from within Canada. However, Kahnawake is regarded as a sovereign nation in its own right, and therefore not actually governed by Canadian laws.
Read more about the Kahnawake Gaming Commission here.
There are frequent reports that the Canadian government is discussing, or at least considering, introducing changes to legislation relating to online gambling. At the time of writing, there is nothing planned for the immediate future. We will provide updates if and when the situation changes.
**We do our best to ensure that the information provided here is accurate and up to date. Please note that we aren’t lawyers though and nothing here should be considered legal advice. We are simply expressing our interpretations of the laws and what they mean.**