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Will Canada Ever Legalize Private Online Casino Competition?

Examining the murky and grey legal situation of online casinos in Canada, and whether onshore sites might be more broadly legalized soon.

The Future of Canadian Online Casinos

Canada is something of a curate’s egg when it comes to betting. At the same time more progressive than the US when it comes to land-based casinos, yet strangely hesitant to address the grey area of online casinos and embrace the reality that online betting is here to stay. Might Canada legalize private online casinos?

Legal Canadian Online Casinos

As we’ll explore in more detail below, Canada’s laws regarding betting are a little odd, as land-based Canadian casinos are legal in many places, domestic online casinos are few and far between, and online but offshore betting happens all the time. Thankfully for interested players, these legitimate online casinos for Canadians can be played from most provinces, and provide a great selection of games, bonuses, and software developers. Whether you’re a slots fan or card shark, prefer the latest cutting edge features with 3D slots or get your kicks from roulette, there’s plenty to enjoy. Free modes allow practice to sharpen up your strategy, and if you play with bonuses you can enjoy a great head start with matched deposits, free spins, and more.

Canadian Online Casinos – A Provincial Affair

Betting in Canada is very much a provincial affair, with individual territories getting to decide what types of gambling are permissible and in what way. It does vary from one province to another, but for the most part casinos are legal provided they’re domestic and land-based. It’s a bit of a grey area, however, as betting at online casinos that are located overseas happens all the time. Domestic online casinos are theoretically possible with provincial licensing but Canadian players have fewer online options unless they look offshore.

Canada has typically had a more open attitude to betting than its southern neighbour, but recently the US has started to change in this regard. Sports betting sites are increasingly welcomed and this is beginning to happen with online casinos as well, which may increase pressure for Canada to do likewise.

One of the arguments in favour of domestic online casinos is that they’re not only compliant with Canadian laws, but they pay tax the same way. By definition, offshore online casinos are registered and pay taxes in other countries. In addition, it’s very difficult to legislate for overseas online betting operations.

Online Casinos Few and Far Between

British Columbia’s PlayNow site launched all the way back in 2004 and is the province’s only legal site for poker, sports, and certain other types of betting.

It still took nearly a decade for Manitoba to follow suit with PlayManitoba, the only legal online gambling site located within the province.

But there are places, such as Saskatchewan, where casinos are permitted but online gambling is not. So whilst we may discuss Canadian laws, this remains a provincial patchwork of differing regulations.

A particular exception to the general rule is the Kahnawake Gaming Commission’s reserve, from which online gambling firms can be licensed by the Gaming Commission and operate without requiring provincial approval.

The odd situation of mostly accepting betting and tacitly allowing offshore online casinos to be accessed does suggest that the approach to online casinos needs to be amended in line with the generally moderate legislation governing other types of betting. This may be accelerated now that the US is liberalizing its own laws.

The US Leaps Ahead

In October 201

9 online casinos were in operation in just four states south of the border, but the prospect of explosive growth may mean that this will encourage not only more states but Canadian provinces to follow suit in order to reap the benefit of greater revenue for the treasury. To use an international comparison with a far more pro-betting nation, the United Kingdom makes around £3bn a year from online casinos, more than tenfold the sum made in the US (which has a massively larger economy).

On that basis, Canada could stand to benefit significantly if it were to correct the slightly strange situation of approving of gambling in most provinces, and of online casinos, but not of private, domestic online casinos. Otherwise, online betting will continue to occur with corresponding revenues benefiting other countries.

In early 2020 Canadian politicians expressed fears that relaxed laws south of the border could put Canadian casinos at risk of being left behind. In terms of revenue, New Jersey took in $4.5bn alonewhich suggests that the move could bolster the treasury if replicated north of the border.

Cui Bono? The Case for more Canadian Casinos

At the moment, around $14bn is wagered by Canadians on single sports betting (only parlay or accumulator bets are currently allowed), but that’s $4bn to offshore casino sites and $10bn on the black market, meaning there’s no cash injection to national coffers for this type of gambling activity.

Indeed, one sign that there might be more casinos approved in Canada was the Sudbury casino. Although construction has been set back due to the global pandemic, this highlights both the contradictory approach taken towards land-based and online casinos by the Canadian authorities, and the advantages that internet-based casinos enjoy. During the COVID-19 crisis online businesses of all types, including casinos, have proven resilient in a way that land-based operations, for obvious reasons, cannot match.