Online gambling has become a favourite pastime for people worldwide including in Canada. Everybody wants to play at the top Canadian casinos to indulge in the latest online slots, table games and live dealer offerings. While some Canadians dive in and create their online account at the top online casinos, others are a bit more hesitant. There is an uncertainty surrounding the gambling regulations in Canada and we’re going to take a closer look at what they are.
As the industry keeps growing, new laws and regulations have been put in place in an effort to protect participants of online gambling. While most countries have their gambling legislations sorted, Canada has always been in a bit of a grey area.
Caught between America and Great Britain
Canada has always been caught in the middle between America and Great Britain. For many years it’s been a struggle for Canada to rise above and establish its own identity. Being surrounded by giants tends to make things a little more difficult.
When taking a look at America it’s easy to see that there is a battle against online casino gambling. The Government might say that they are against online gambling purely for moral reasons and to promote responsible gambling. Others will argue that the only reason for their resistance is that they want to keep the multi-million-dollar income for themselves. It’s easy to see why this could be the belief of the masses.
In 2006 America added a provision to their anti-terrorism Act that rendered credit card use for online casino transactions illegal. There are many who speculate that the drive behind this was to keep residents from playing at popular offshore online casinos based in regions such as Malta, Antigua and Costa Rica. While the 1961 Wire Act plays in favour of this motion it was recently ruled that it does not apply to online poker.
It’s interesting to see that the British Parliament is in full support of online gambling. They passed a Gambling Act in 2005 that made online gambling legal as long as the websites are run from within the country. The online casinos established in Britain are taxed and are strictly regulated to ensure they operate within the law. Whether these laws will change or not thanks to Brexit, still remains to be seen.
When it comes to Canada things are a little more complex as the sovereign nation, the government’s hesitant approach, and the Criminal Code of Canada all play a role.
Criminal Code, Sovereign Nation, and Government Hesitance
Before 1969 it was illegal to bet on anything other than charity lotteries and horse races that took place at fairs in Canada. In that year, the criminal code changed by the federal government allowing the government and the 10 provinces to host regular lotteries and gaming machines. However, later in 1985, the federal government handed off all gambling to the individual provinces while the criminal code remained unchanged.
According to the Criminal Code it’s illegal to be found in a betting house or even run one. There is no mention of online betting houses and it’s unclear whether online casinos and poker sites fall under the code. In Section 207 of the code it says that lottery schemes include lotteries operated via a computer. And while some are hesitant, a few provinces jumped at the chance of getting in on the action.
Then there is the Kahnawake Mohawk Nation, a native reserve situated on the outside of Montreal. The Mohawk Nation claims to be their own sovereign nation and therefore feel they don’t have to adhere to any “outsider” laws. In 1996, they established the Kahnawake Gaming Commission and have been licensing qualifying casinos ever since. While this special gaming regulatory body can get away with hosting online and land-based casinos from within the Canadian borders without getting prosecuted, legal entities such as horserace companies legally operating in Canada are forbidden from doing so.
Canada is overall very hesitant when it comes to legalising or completely banning online gambling. Especially with the Kahnawake Mohawk Nation boycotting their laws, it will be extremely difficult to instigate such strict bans. Another interesting thing to take in to consideration is that finding a legal Canadian online casino that could be located in Canada isn’t that hard. However, trying to operate an online casino from Canada seems to be extremely difficult.
Taxing of Online Gambling Wins
Whether it is legal or not, many Canadians have started playing at online casinos. And while indulging in some online gambling is fun, there is the question of taxes, especially when it comes to wins. If you are going to strike a massive win you’d want to know whether or not you’ll have to pay tax on it. At the moment, Canada is one of the few countries where you won’t be taxed on winnings obtained from an online or land-based casino. You can happily play your way to riches without worrying about tax restraints.
Online Gambling in Canada
While the Criminal Code remains unchanged, legally the 10 provinces have the last say regarding the legalities of gambling and online gambling activities in their regions. Canadians can visit legal casinos based in Ontario and British Columbia (BC) or the world’s best poker rooms based in Quebec. When it comes to online gambling sites there are thousands of international casinos targeting the Canadian Market. Sites such as BGO Casino, Dunder Casino, and Guts Casino offer top-quality online games that can be played for real cash by Canadians.
The legality of online gambling has always been somewhat of a grey area in Canada but players can rest assured. According to lawyers and those working with the law first hand, Canadians enjoying online gambling are not breaking the law.
Commenting on the legality of online gambling in Canada, Michael Lipton, a lawyer and gaming law expert, said that in his opinion, Canadian residents partaking in online casino activities with offshore establishments are not committing any criminal offence.
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