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.

Canadian Betting Sites

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.

The Legal Grey Area of Betting Online in Canada

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.

Popular Markets for Canadian Bettors

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.

Cashier Options

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 Future of Online Betting in Canada

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.

Top 5 Poker Sites in Canada

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.

Canadian Poker Sites – Which Are The Best Sites To Play At?

Canadians can play at all of the main poker sites, and have 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. 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.

Canadian Poker Sites – Deposit Methods

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.

Multiple Currencies – Converting From CAD

With the exception of, 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.

Canadian Poker Sites – Poker Legality And Tax In Canada

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.

Canadian Poker Sites – The Future

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.