Gambling Online in Canada & Canadian Casinos

Like many countries, include its nearest neighbor to the south, Canada is currently in a state of legal flux when it comes to online gambling. Games like online poker, digital blackjack, and internet-based slots live in a legal grey area: specific laws differ from province to province, but the overwhelming official attitude is a bit “live and let live”.

Wondering how you can get your internet gaming on in Canada? Where’s a poker enthusiast to go when he or she gets the urge to scratch that Texas Hold ’Em itch? The key to smart online gambling in Canada (and beyond) is to study up on the local laws, understand how you can find a reputable and trustworthy site, and get up close and personal with the ins and outs of Canadian online casinos and their rules and regulations.

To help you get closer to your gaming goals, we’ve put together this not-so-brief guide to Canadian casinos and gaming sites. Ready to roll the dice? Let’s play!

Online Casino Laws in Canada

Once upon a time, gambling was a major no-no in Canada. Laws were very restrictive, putting severe limitations on the types of gambling allowed as well as where those games could be played. However, in the 1970s a bit of a legal revolution took place and things changed dramatically for the better. Power was shifted from a central country-wide authority to give each individual province the ability to decide for itself what was best for the local population. As a result, gambling law differs depending on where in Canada you live and/or play.

This province-by-province approach means that some provinces have lotteries and sports books while others do not, and online gambling can be similarly spotty. Each local government has the right to approve whether local businesses can operate online casinos and those sites are not hard to find. What’s important to remember is this: government-approved internet casinos are perfectly legal to use, but those operating outside government oversight are very definitely not. This distinction means that many offshore sites (such as those owned and operated by foreign citizens outside the Canadian legal and banking systems) advertising to and recruiting Canadian players are technically operating illegal, at least according to Canadian law.

Online Gambling in Canada: Legal or Illegal?

There is no law currently on the books in Canada that makes it legal for a citizen of the country to gamble online. In fact, there are laws that prohibit certain gambling-related act and those laws could technically be used to prosecute an online gambler if the authorities were so inclined, but to date that just has not happened. The big question related to the information above about whether an online casino is approved by the Canadian government or not. The prevailing attitude is that Canadian residents aren’t risking legal trouble just by betting via a foreign-operated (aka unapproved) site. Is it best to bet locally? Probably. Are you going to go to jail if you sign up with a site rooted somewhere beyond Canada’s borders? To our knowledge, something like that has never even come close to happening.

Canadian Tax Law and Online Gambling

If you happen to win some money through an online casino in Canada, chances are you’ll want to know pretty quickly whether or not you’re going to lose a chunk of your jackpot to taxes. The short answer is, “probably not.” Gambling winnings are only taxed in Canada if the individual in question is considered to be a professional gambler. If you bet for a living or have a record of play that indicates you might be a pro gambler, you might be subject to taxation. Otherwise, your winnings are yours to keep!

Available Banking Methods for Canadian Online Casinos

Ready to open an account with one of Canada’s online casinos? Before you play, you’re going to have to pay up – by depositing some money into your brand new casino account, that is. Cash play games require you to transfer some cash. How can you do that safely? Acceptable deposit methods change from provider to provider but the following list includes the most common ways to get your money from point A to point B.

  • Credit and Debit Cards – You can use your credit or debit card to deposit money into your online casino account but there’s a major catch: American Express aren’t accepted. Visa and Mastercard, however, are widely accepted by many Canadian casinos. You can use a bank or credit card that features the Visa or Mastercard logos or get a prepaid card. Mastercard also comes with another caveat. Though it’s fairly easy to deposit money using your Mastercard, the company limits casinos withdrawals, meaning you’ll likely have to find another way to cash out your winnings if your play proves to be lucky.
  • eChecks– Echecks are a way to transfer money digitally from your checking account to the online casino of your choice. It’s very similar to old-fashioned check writing except you won’t physically write a check or need to drop it in the mail. This deposit method requires a checking account and you can only transfer money you currently have in that account – in other words, no credit. This method can be slower than others and it may take a day or two to see your money move from your bank to your casino account.
  • Web or E-Wallets – Web and e-wallet sites such as PayPal, Neteller, and Skrill are incredibly popular amongst online gamblers and for good reason. These third-party site offer a secure way to transfer money without directly connecting your bank and casino accounts and transfer are convenient, quick, and easy to execute.
  • Interac – Interac e-transfers allow gambler to transfer money from their bank accounts to Canadian internet casinos quickly and securely. Fees are usually reasonable and assessed on a flat-rate basis, meaning you’re paying a tiny amount for the privilege of sending whatever amount of money you desire. Many casinos offer bonuses to players using Interac to manage their money and payouts can also be made using the same transfer system.
  • Bitcoin –Bitcoin is a revolutionary form of digital currency that is totally anonymous. In most cases, you can use Bitcoin for both deposits and withdrawals and the transfers never go through a typical land-based banking institution. Bitcoin is cheap to use and transactions are quick, however Bitcoin valuations have been known to fluctuate.

Who Licenses Canadian Gaming Sites?

Licensing Canadian Online Casinos: Provincial Oversight

There are 10 provinces in Canada: Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Alberta. As each Canadian province has the right to regulate online casinos locally, they must also set up their own provincial governing bodies that license casinos, monitor operations, and so on. In Ontario, for example, there’s the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG). Entrepreneurs hoping to open up a casino must contact the provincial gambling body to secure a license and any gamblers experiencing a problem with a site should report those issues to the governing body in the province in which that site operates.

The Kahnawake Gaming Commission

Within Canada, there are also sovereign Indian nations that are allowed certain privileges beyond what Canadian law normally allows. The Kahnawake Mowhawk, who live on a reserve near the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, Canada, have the ability to operate and oversee casino operations that run independently from those licensed by the Canadian government. Games run by the Kahnawake operate from the tribe’s reserve and are licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, the same body that regulates the land-based poker rooms situated in the Kahnawake’s territory. The tribe also has their own local, territory-based data center that hosts and manages their vast network of sites.

How to Find a Trustworthy Online Casino in Canada

When you’re looking to gamble online, you want to be sure that the site you’ve selected is trustworthy. After all, you’re risking real money and it’s important that you know whether your investment is protected and the games your participating in will be fair. The best way to do that in Canada is to ask the following questions before placing a bet:

  • Is the site licensed? Only bet via sites that have been licensed by either a provincial gambling commission or another approved gambling body such as the Kahnawake Gaming Commission.
  • Is the site operating from within Canada? There are hundreds if not thousands of offshore sites that operate outside of Canadian law and many of those are perfectly safe to use, but if you have an issue with one of those sites the Canadian government will not have any power to help you right those alleged wrongs. That doesn’t mean you can’t gamble with offshore casinos, just know that there is an extra level of protection that comes with gambling through Canadian-licensed sites.
  • Does the site display payout percentages? Online casinos in Canada must have their software checked for accuracy and those payout percentages should be displayed for each individual game.
  • Is their banking interface/cashier encrypted? In other words, is your information safe? Reputable sites will use multi-level encryption to keep you and your money secure.