The online gambling laws in Canada are a little bit more complex than – for example the UK’s – and while there is legislation in place that stops Canadian-based companies offering gambling services to its citizens without a Government-issued license, there’s no law that stops Canadian players from using an overseas website. Complicating the matters even further is the fact that certain Canadian provinces are able to regulate gambling within their region, including the Kahnawake Gaming Commission.
Canadian Online Gambling Laws, Rules, and Regulations
Gambling laws in Canada themselves have been relatively strict, with very few forms of gambling ever allowed. However, reforms to the country’s Criminal Code in the late 1970’s made it so that individual provinces inside Canada could regulate and issue licenses to gambling operators, resulting in an influx off land-based casinos, well before the age of online gambling.
When Internet gambling started becoming more commonplace, there was initially an element of confusion on Canadian player’s legal ramifications of gaming online. Few Canada-based companies are licensed by the Canadian Government to offer services to resident players, although, there are an estimated 1,400 offshore websites that legally allow Canadians to join, and play casino games for real money. These offshore casinos don’t need to be registered by Canadian regulatory bodies, and allow Canadian players to play in their local currency. A simple way to look at, what otherwise can seem like a confusing subject, is that ANY Canadian player choosing to play at online casinos – regardless of the site they are playing at – are fully, and legally entitled to.
There is NO LAW that prevents Canadians themselves from online gambling – it’s the gambling companies themselves who possibly commit breaches of law by accepting bets from Canadian players. So, while the Canadian Government would like you to believe it’s against the law… It’s not. As long as you’re playing at online casinos, and not operating one, you are acting well within the law. In fact, Canada has become a hub for American Poker Players after the US banned online poker in most States, and US players who want to play poker professionally often cross into Canada for as little as a day, so they can play the game, free from prosecution.
Thanks to the Canadian Government being relatively open to online gambling, in general, Canadian players have a wide range of deposit and withdraw options available to them, when gambling online. All major Credit/Debit cards are able to be used by Canadian players, with most websites also allowing residents to use a variety of e-wallets, like Skrill and Neteller.
One thing that’s worth noting is that bank-wires and transfers may take longer if using a website offshore. To combat this, Canadian players can consider withdrawing casino funds into an e-wallet, such as Skrill, and then withdrawing their Skrill funds directly to their bank account; this will be much faster, but it does require you to use your Skrill account to deposit at an online casino, as you are unable to use a payment method for withdrawal, unless having made a deposit with it before.
Banks in Canada also allow for direct-transferring of funds, something that wouldn’t be possible if the gambling laws weren’t quite so lenient. There are also a large number of online casinos that accept Canadian players that use the local Canadian currency, which means residents can deposit, withdraw, and play in their local currency. This not only makes playing easier, but also means that you don’t have to continually try and work out exchange rates or aren’t subject to any exchange fees or rates from the bank/payment processor.
Software and Games
Canada has seen a fair share of gambling operators leave its market, with apparent legal confusion causing many of these businesses to adopt a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach. While Canadian players generally have access to a wide selection of games, June 2016 saw one of the largest game providers, Net Entertainment completely withdraw from the market, citing the country’s ‘legal limbo’ too much of a risk for them to continue offering services. Sites directly affected included Gutz Casino, Rizk Casino, and BetSpin.
Net Entertainment are not the first global gambling company to cut their ties with Canada; 2015 saw two of the UK’s largest bookmakers stop offering services to Canadian players, and Ladbrokes and BetFair both started blocking players with Canadian IP addresses. Paddy Power left even earlier, ceasing Canadian operations back in 2011, and William Hill are another big name to have completely vacated the country, stopping operations in Canada in May, 2016. While this may sound like bad news for Canadian players, there are many software providers that offer Canadian players games, and this includes Betsoft, Microgaming, NYX Gaming, Evolution, Play’n Go, Quickspin, Williams Interactive Gaming, and ELK Studios.
Canadian taxation laws aren’t quite as clear-cut as – for example, the UK’s – but in short, Canadian players do NOT need to pay any taxes on winnings. While it’s always highly recommended to speak to your own accountant or tax specialist, the Income Tax Act specifically states that ‘a person winning as lottery prize, or winning at a game of chance is not subject to income tax on those winnings’. The same is also generally applied to Sports Betting, although large wins (particularly those worth more than 50% of the winner’s yearly-salary) can get trickier, and may have the tax-man at your toes. The bottom line, however, is that any winnings you make from playing casino games online, are 100% yours to keep – there is no tax to be paid whatsoever!