Online Gambling in Canada

by James Carter on February 19th, 2015.

The art of gambling has a long history throughout the United Kingdom, and it's not difficult to imagine a couple of minor noblemen betting on the outcome of a joust during the Middle Ages. That tradition of wagering on competitive events has stretched into the modern age, although the men on horseback have been replaced by finely tuned athletes from a variety of sports.

This article will provide you with an overview of the legalities of online gambling in the United Kingdom, highlight the best playing options for locals as well as explain various deposit options available to Internet putters, among other information.

What you'll find on this page:

  • Top-ranked UK gambling sites.
  • Is it legal to gamble online?
  • Types of gambling in the UK.
  • Most popular gambling games in the UK.
  • Largest UK casinos.

Legality of Online Gambling in Canada

Early on in the life of the worldwide Internet betting industry, Canadians were free to place bets where they desired. A total lack of legislation specifically aimed at wagering over the Internet meant that citizens of this country didn't face the troubles of some Europeans (eventually Americans as well).

Like other jurisdictions, Canada doesn't use gambling law to target individual bettors themselves. Instead, Canadian law focuses on the legalities of providing games of chance and skill to Canadian citizens over an Internet connection.

For example, it is illegal for any individual or company to run an online casino or poker room on Canadian soil. This sound straightforward, except for the fact that the Kahnawake native reserve just outside Montreal runs one of the world's best-known licensing groups for online gaming. Canada's gaming law is full of contradictions like this.

Even more curious - the recent entrance of both Quebec and British Columbia to the online casino regulation and licensing game. Canadian territories and provinces were once a united front in terms of Internet gambling operation, but now a few other provinces are looking to become regulators as well, Ontario chief among them.

The bottom line, for bettors, is that no Canadian citizen is going to face any penalty under existing law, unless otherwise explicitly stated in local law. The Canadian government pursues and penalizes illegal game hosts, but not Canadians who choose to play those games.

Background

After the nationwide outlaw of all forms of gambling in the late 19th Century, not much would change for Canadians interested in gambling until 1969. That year, the country's Criminal Code was altered to allow local provisions for certain forms of gambling, mostly lotto-style games. At that time, these games had to be held to benefit "worthwhile causes." The popular and successful Montreal Olympic Games received considerable funding from territorial lotto sales.

Over the decades, this tradition of funding charities and other worthwhile bodies faded to the point that regional lottery games are now a big source of revenue for Canada's local governments themselves. The regulation of lottery play led to the regulation of bets on horse racing, new laws allowing for many forms of charitable gambling, and finally traditional casino-style gambling, both from commercial operators and tribal groups.

Today, Canadian gaming law is liberal enough that the nation is home to some 8,000 slot parlours, 2,000 bingo halls, 70 race tracks, and five dozen brick and mortar casinos. Most of the news related to Canada's gambling legislation in recent years has had to do with the complicated state of Internet betting. Games of chance and skill are operated by a variety of entities, from non-profit organizations and charities to private companies, government-licensed agencies, and groups operating under the authority of Canadian aboriginal peoples.

Sports Betting

Under the Criminal Code of Canada, betting on a single sporting event is prohibited. The only legal bookmaker is also owned by the state and is known as Sport Select throughout the provinces. The most popular wagering option is Pro-Line, a parlay game where punters bet on up to six sporting events chosen by the bookmaker.

Sport Select has drawn a lot of criticism over the years for its poor odds, and those who elect to find online betting exchanges can often improve their odds up to 50%. Despite this attempt to monopolize the gambling industry, many punters choose to do their betting online, as there are no legal penalties for doing so.

Popular Gambling Games

Since Canada has strong cultural, political, and legal ties to the USA, it should be no surprise that the makeup of an average Canadian gaming venue is identical to the average casino floor in America. Slot machines are by far the biggest game in the land. Plenty of money finds its way through the regional and federal lottery systems as well.

As far as the most popular tables at Canadian casinos, the big games tend to be blackjack and poker. There is considerable interest in live and tournament poker, at brick and mortar casinos and through licensed online poker rooms. The larger poker rooms in Canada operate as many as fourteen tables at once, with variants focused mainly on American games like hold'em and Omaha.

Though Canada has many live race tracks, horse and dog racing is not as popular as it is in the US, Europe, or Australia. The sport has its fans, and its dozens of courses from coast to coast, but pari-mutuel wagering is not as big of a hobby among Canadians as among their neighbors to the south.

Canada features a unique blend of sports, as their border with the United States has resulted in a number of American leagues putting franchises in various provinces. In addition, Canada's history with France and England has resulted in a European influence over sporting events. It's a strange mix to be sure, but residents of the Great White North don't seem to be complaining.

For those looking to bet on sports in Canada, the following are the most popular options:

Hockey - The official national winter sport of Canada, ice hockey is also the nation's most popular spectator sport. The National Hockey League is the top league to bet on, as the following teams call Canada their home: Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Winnipeg Jets.

Basketball - The sport of basketball was actually invented by a Canadian, and most of the participants in the first-ever game hailed from Quebec. The first NBA game was held in Toronto in 1946, and the continued popularity of the league has led to franchises such as the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies being based in the country.

American Football - While the NFL doesn't have any franchises north of the border, the close proximity of teams such as the Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills have long generated interest among local gamblers. Other favorites include the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Baseball - The first baseball game in Canada took place in 1838, and it's been going strong ever since. The nation can even boast the oldest baseball park still in operation. While Major League Baseball dominates the landscape, the nation also includes the Frontier League and the Intercounty Baseball League.

Canadian Football League - The Canadian Football League is the nation's only professional league for this sport, and a number of rules set it apart from its American counterpart. A number of NFL stars actually played ball in the CFL before migrating south, including Doug Flutie, Warren Moon, and Cameron Wake.

Lacrosse - The official summer sport of the nation, lacrosse can trace its roots back to games played by the indigenous people of North America over 500 years ago. The National Lacrosse League is the most popular body for box lacrosse, while Major League Lacrosse represents field lacrosse franchises in the United States and Canada.

Rugby - The sport of rugby is most popular in British Colombia, although it also has a strong following in Ontario and Newfoundland. The Canadian national team has participated in each Rugby World Cup since its creation in 1987, and it always brings out the punters in droves.

Golf - A popular recreational sport in Canada, golf is enjoyed by both the young and old. Tour events are held for the PGA and LPGA, and a number of qualifying school tournaments are also held across the nation.

Soccer - This sport has been played professionally in Canada since 1876, and a number of teams compete in either the North American Soccer League or Major League Soccer. The annual FIFA Club World Cup draws plenty of wagers, but it pales in comparison to the FIFA World Cup, which is held every four years.

Types of Gambling

Every popular form of gambling is legal in some part of Canada. Describing the types of gaming available in Canada is complex for the same reason describing any aspect of Canada as a whole is difficult; Canada is made up of thirteen provinces and territories, each with its own gaming history, traditions, and laws.

Lotteries - Some 32,000 lottery ticket sales locations spread across the country are a clear sign that lottery games, raffle-style and scratch-card games, are as popular among Canadians as among Americans. Both regional and national lottery games are available to Canadian citizens.

Charitable Gambling - Charitable betting is widely accepted at the provincial and territorial level, with restrictions and requirements varying from one area of the country to another. For the most part, charity-based games are allowed provided the organization hosting them doesn't earn a profit (beyond fund-raising efforts) or sell alcoholic beverages. Check specific territorial laws for details on specific provincial charitable gambling laws.

Social Gambling - Contests in private homes and businesses are legal in many territories and provinces, though they must follow a specific set of regulations, similar to charitable gambling ventures. Generally speaking, this means game hosts can't charge admission, give or receive "gifts," and all participants must have an existing social relationship outside of the game. All games and pools of this type must be held "out of the public eye."

Sports Betting - In many parts of Canada, wagering on the outcome of sporting events is just as popular as in the USA, only available more readily in fully legal forms. Though the sports wagered most-often among Canadians is a little different than that of Americans, the sports themselves (and the athletes involved) tend to have a lot of overlap. Sports betting is not readily available in the more sparsely-populated areas of the country.

Casino Gambling - As is the case in the USA, slots are big business in Canada. The majority of the $13 billion Canadians spend on bets every year finds its way to a slot game. Table games are popular among Canadians in much the same way they're played in the American industry; blackjack and poker are more popular in Canada than roulette, baccarat, or craps. Though some games are far more profitable in Canada than others, competition in various gambling jurisdictions means casinos have an incentive to provide a wide variety of electronic and table contests. Games as diverse as Pai Gow, Pontoon, Sic Bo, and Pachinko can be found on the gaming floors of Canada's casinos.

Online Gambling - Canadian law regarding online gambling is somewhat complex; existing legislation forbids entities from offering games of chance and skill to Canadian citizens, as is the case in Australia and the USA, but this doesn't prevent people in Canada from participating in online betting. In fact, the Canadian market is an important piece of the larger North American gaming scene, as the two are now often lumped together in the eyes of the gaming industry. Further detail on the legality of online gaming in Canada is below.

Largest Canadian Casinos

As of this writing, 60 traditional casino properties operate on Canadian soil. These properties are concentrated mainly in high-population areas in territories where gaming is less-harshly regulated; Canadian casinos in British Columbia and Ontario are the standard-bearer when it comes to casino play within the country's borders.

The biggest venue in Canada is Casino de Montreal Quebec. The gaming floor takes up 100,000 square feet, with room for 100 gaming tables and thousands of slots and other electronic games. The casino itself is spread across five floors and is often listed among the largest gambling facilities in the world.

Casino Niagara in Ontario is a close second, with 95,000 square feet of gaming space, thousands of slot and video poker titles, and 80 game tables available on any given night. A twelve-table poker room operates 24 hours a day, as does the attached sports book and lounge.

River Rock Casino Resort in British Columbia is the largest property in Western Canada. The gaming floor is 70,000 square feet, enough for just under 1,000 electronic games and some 40 table classics.