Gambling is prevalent in Canada. Way before the European settlers arrived, the indigenous people played Slahal. The game is thought to have originated before the Ice Age. It is played with sticks and bones on the Pacific Northwest Coast. Slahal was more than just a gambling game; it had a spiritual aspect and was influential in the community. When the Europeans came, they brought their card and dice games. However, dice games were illegal under British common law. As has been seen worldwide, making something illegal does not mean it does not happen. Gambling across Canada was no different.
- 1 Land-based facilities are less popular
- 2 Over half of the population is active online
- 3 Gambling legalities vary across the country
- 4 Ontario is the first regulated market
- 5 Choosing the best online sites
- 6 What brought about these changes
Land-based facilities are less popular
There are around eighty land-based casinos in Canada, seventeen of which are First Nation casinos. Even before the 2020 lockdowns, all of the country’s super casinos reported declining revenue. For example, for the financial year 2018-2019, the Alberta Casino revenues were down by 24%. This did not mean Canadians were gambling less; they were simply finding other places to place their bets.
Over half of the population is active online
Current statistics estimate that there are over 19.3 million online gamblers in Canada. That is around half of the country’s entire population, so it is a very significant number. Several Canadian provinces have launched online gambling sites, including Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. Canadians spend around $4 billion a year in offshore online casinos, even though it is illegal for these casinos to target Canadian players. However, online bricks and mortar casinos physically located on Canadian soil are subject to penalties.
Gambling legalities vary across the country
Each province is self-governing regarding gambling laws. Online casinos must obtain a license from the local authority to operate legally. In most of the country, it is all still a slightly grey area, with only British Columbia, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba that actually issue online gambling licenses. As a result, it is all somewhat confusing. However, Ontario took a big step earlier this year to bring online gambling more in line with the more mature European gambling markets. In April this year, Ontario became the first province with a regulated and legalized online gambling market which allows all forms of online gambling.
Ontario is the first regulated market
In Ontario, online gambling is regulated by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). All forms of online gambling are legal in the province, and the AGCO has developed a framework of rules that gambling sites have to follow to promote responsible gambling and protect vulnerable people from gambling harms. To gamble in Ontario, you have to be 19 or over. Responsible gambling rules ensure that young people and self-excluded players cannot participate. The regulations aim to enhance the integrity of the industry. In addition, a regulated and legalized industry with state-issued licenses increases revenues to the province’s coffers. Licenses have been granted to world-class operators who take player protection seriously.
Choosing the best online sites
Residents of Ontario now find plenty of new online casinos popping up. There are familiar names, and Time2Play has reviewed and ranked the operators on a wide range of criteria. These include which sites offer the greatest choice of slot games. Where the best sports betting odds can be found. Which casinos offer the fastest cash payouts? What are the deposit and withdrawal options at the varying casinos? They have done all the hard work for you and can help you find exactly what you are looking for, from video slot to live dealer games, NHL to FIFA World Cup odds, and eSports to Fantasy leagues. In addition, they are hot on which sites are best on mobile or desktop browsers and where you can live stream the action for free.
What brought about these changes
The shift towards legalized, regulated markets began last year. In August 2023, the C-218 bill came into effect. The bill made single-event sports betting legal. Before this, only parlay bets were allowed. A parlay bet is when two or more events are tied together in one bet. So the bettor has to back the winner in all the events to claim the reward. This gave Canadians fewer options, particularly for sports betting. The Government said their bill would allow them to keep Canadians safer and strengthen the economy. The truth is that Canadians were already engaged in single-event sports betting via offshore and grey market websites. Because the websites were operating from outside of Canada, it was not technically illegal to use them. The new laws have been brought in to bring the competition back to Canada and allow the country to cash in on the revenues that they are missing out on. Each province is moving at their own pace. Here is a round-up of the status quo
Québec has one government-regulated website called Espacejeux which started offering single-event betting as soon as the new law came into force. Online gamblers in the province can also play at Loto- Québec, which has partnered with online casino games providers.
The British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) launched its PlayNow Sportsbook last year. It is the only regulated online gambling website in the province, and there are no known plans for offering licenses to international betting companies.
Manitoba is part of the Western Canada Lottery Corporation. They also allow single-event gambling via the Sport Select gambling website. In addition, thanks to a long-standing arrangement with BCLC, Manitobans can gamble on the PlayNow website.
Alberta was not as fast to get on board with allowing its residents to bet on single sports events, but it still launched in September 2023. Here it is regulated by the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission. Albertans can gamble online at Play Alberta, a province-owned site. In addition, they can play on third-party websites
The Atlantic Province
Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are part of the Atlantic Lottery Corporation. With the exception of Nova Scotia, the provinces allowed single-event sports betting immediately after the law changed; Nova Scotians had to wait until February 2023. The ALC website also has provision for online casino games. So far, there has been no move to allow third-party operators.
Sports betting became available here in November 2023. Then, in June of this year, the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority signed an agreement with the BCLC, meaning residents could access the PlayNow website.
Nunavut, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories are associate members of the WCLC. These residents can play on WCLC’s Sports Select platform but have to purchase tickets in-store.