Every major poker online site accepts players from Canada. Though deposits are tricky compared to some countries, with banking and eWallet restrictions.
In this guide to Canadian Poker, you will find a quick run-down of the main poker site options Canadians can enjoy. I have then covered Canadian friendly deposit methods to allow you to get that money online, including some words on depositing in CAD and then playing in USD. This page wraps up with the legality of online poker in Canada along with the current tax situation for players. And finally we touch on the future for Canadian poker, including a mention of legislation threats from the right.
Canadians can play at all of the main poker sites, and have Bodog.eu all to themselves – this site are the Canada-only part of the global Bodog brand, and have a cool ‘recreational player model’.
Here are some of the other major sites, with the pros and cons of each.
PokerStars.com is the biggest site around and are hugely popular among Canadian players. You’ll find the choice of games a little overwhelming it is so huge – and the software is very smooth too. A lot of small and mid-stakes pros do play here, so you’ll need to watch for the ‘regulars’ in your games. PokerStars also own Full Tilt Poker, and you can transfer funds between the two sites.
Bet365 and William Hill are both members of the iPoker Network, which is the 2nd biggest poker site open to Canadian players. This network is largely made up of bookmakers that pool together their players on a common poker back-end. Be prepared for some very soft games. While you can still deposit in CAD, the games themselves are now played in Euros. The iPoker software might not be as smooth as some other sites, though for me the easy games more than make up for this.
Finally, 888 Poker welcome Canadian players – another site with easy games, 888 really focus on the recreational player crowd with their offers and promos. This includes $8 completely free to check out their games with no deposit requirement or credit card info needed.
While there are no Canadian laws preventing online gambling transactions, to avoid legal issues with their US subsidiaries, many Canadian banks including TD and RBC refuse to process deposits and withdrawals from poker sites. Likewise the major eWallets, including Neteller and Skrill (Moneybookers), no longer allow players to use their facilities to deposit onto online poker rooms.
You will find that MasterCard transactions will go through regularly, especially if you use a prepaid card which has been issued by a non-Canadian bank. This is the easiest method for most players. There are several reliable eWallets available which are still dealing with Canadian Poker sites, including Click2Pay, EntroPay and InstaDebit. Money transfer sites, such as MoneyGram and Western Union, also work great – though these will require a trip to your local branch office.
With the exception of Bodog.eu, you will find most sites do not deal exclusively in CAD. When you sign up to a site you will usually find your deposit converted into USD at that day’s interbank rate. You then play in USD (or EUR for iPoker) and see your winnings accumulate in that currency. When you cash out your money is once again converted. This does mean you’ll be subject to fluctuations in the money markets. Unless you are a significant high-roller, the effects will be very small – the swings will generally be no more than 1 or 2 percent.
It is widely accepted that online gambling and poker is legal and is enjoyed daily by thousands of Canadian citizens. Due to lack on regulation specifically aimed at online gambling, anyone questioning the legality of the business has to refer to older laws. This states that it is only permitted to gamble in places authorised by the Canadian government. The vast majority of poker sites are still operating with no objection from the Canadian government or law enforcement in spite of this unclear wording.
The tax situation with regards to online poker changed dramatically in the players favour after the Radonjic vs Canada Revenue Agency case was settled in 2013. Previously there had been a large grey area where professional poker players had to pay taxes on winnings and amateurs did not. The CRA argued Radonjic should pay taxes as he played frequently in the “pursuit of profit” keeping detailed records, thereby operating in a “business-like manner”. Radonjic, who had paid taxes on his poker winnings prior to this case, successfully countered this by explaining that profit was not guaranteed for a player and he was doing nothing different to an enthusiastic amateur. The Court concluded that there was no difference between Radonjic’s actions and those playing for a hobby. This essentially means poker income is non-taxable.
Despite noises about regulation or bans from the right every 6 months or so, the Canadian government appear happy to keep things as they are regarding online poker. If you are a Canadian player you can continue to enjoy playing at the biggest and best poker sites in the world. In fact a recent court case has even been good news allowing amateur players to keep their poker winnings tax free. Unfortunately due to the caution of Canadian banks you may find some deposit methods are unavailable. Overall, Canada still remains one of the largest poker markets in the world and there are no signs of change anytime soon.