Like their neighbors to the south, online gambling exploded in Canada at the turn of the century, as it did in the US. However, unlike Americans, Canadians didn’t feel the wrath of an Ottawa-led crackdown on online gambling. For now, it appears Canada is headed towards legalization and regulation, rather than prohibition of online betting.
The Canadian online gambling market is not a small one. The country of over 35 million has always enjoyed a wager, and they no doubt makeup a sizable portion of today’s nearly 40-billion-dollar online gambling market.
Canada is one of the few countries that have taken a hands-off approach to internet gambling and sports betting. While the Canadian government (all provincial licensees) has only issued a few licenses for online gambling entities, there is little interference when it comes to Canadian citizens betting with foreign operators.
Canada falls into a legal grey area when it comes down to individual players, but the activity of offering betting services to a Canadian citizen is illegal. However, even though in recent years many operators have left Canada, the government has not aggressively gone after foreign gambling sites, unlike the US Department of Justice.
From a player’s perspective, online gambling is isn’t explicitly legal, and there are no laws in Canada that criminalize wagering online in any form, be it online poker, casino, or sports betting. No Canadian has ever faced charges for gambling online.
Despite Canada’s lack of a legal, regulated climate, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, operated by a tribe outside of Montreal, is one of the largest gaming regulatory bodies in the world. They operate with full legality and license over 70 gambling-related sites. Since the activities of the tribe are sovereign, the Canadian government has little control of what happens on tribal land.
In 2010, British Columbia authorized a state-licensed online gambling site that added pai gow poker and casino games in addition to their province lottery. Quebec launched a casino site in 2011.
As of mid-2014, several other provinces are considering bills legalizing several forms of online gambling, including sports betting, but nothing has passed on that front. Similar to state-led efforts in the United States, professional leagues, like the NFL and NBA, have lobbied hard to keep these bills from passing.
Not surprisingly, Canadians love betting on hockey. The NHL is their national pastime, and the league has a massive following. Lower leagues, such as the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) and American Hockey League (AHL) also have a decent following in Canada, both on TV and in attendance. Hockey betting markets have expanded in a big way in the past decade, no doubt in part due to their popularity across Canada.
Right behind the NHL in terms of ratings and betting action is the Canadian Football League (CFL). Canadians also enjoy betting on American sports. The NFL, NBA, and MLB have excellent television ratings. Toronto has an MLB baseball team, the Blue Jays, and is home to the NBA’s Toronto Raptors.
Of course, sites that service Canadians don’t stop there. Like many US-facing sportsbooks, there are odds for just about every sport in the world. Canadians watch more soccer than the average American and have an MLS team based in Toronto as well. They also enjoy wagering on Olympic hockey every four years.
Canadians still have more deposit and withdrawal options compared to those in the US, but in recent years, that has dwindled a bit. Still, they’re far better off compared to Americans in terms of deposit options and processing fees for withdrawals.
While previously able to use e-wallets Neteller and MoneyBookers, both companies tightened their regulations over the past decade. Neteller stopped accepting Canadians in 2006, shortly after the company pulled out of America. MoneyBookers was a reliable option until early 2014, when they stopped processing gambling transactions for residents of Canada.
The best deposit and withdrawal option for Canadians is Instadebit. Instadebit is based in Canada and tied to the Canadian banking system. Bettors simply have to link their personal bank account to Instadebit, and they will be ready to go.
Instadebit offers security, convenience, and low costs. Since they are a Canadian-based company, they are subject to Canadian banking laws, which guarantee certain safeguards for customers. They’re not some foreign company operating in a country without a lack of protections. Costs are also almost nothing. The vast majority of times, fees are covered by the sportsbook.
Other deposit options include via credit card, bank wire, or by e-check. EntroPay is another e-wallet that has been emerging for Canadians since MoneyBookers’ exit from the market. Overall, Canadian sports bettors should have no issues finding a deposit option.
Withdrawal times will vary depending on the sportsbook but are generally close to UK and European speeds. Again, this is method dependent as well. Players can expect checks and bank wires to go out in a few days and withdrawals back to Instadebit in about 48 hours.
The current status quo in Canada is more than adequate for online betting. There are plenty of options, and withdrawals are processed quickly. However, with that said, Canadians have lost quite a few cashier options, and several sites have left the market over the past few years.
This isn’t normally a good sign, but Canada’s government is likely headed towards widespread regulation, rather than prohibition. They already offer online casino games in some provinces, and lawmakers in Ottawa know that trying to outlaw the industry as a whole is futile.
In several years, we may see a legal and regulated climate for all forms of online gambling, which would be an improvement over the current situation. In the meantime, Canadian betting markets are still thriving.