The laws for online gambling in Canada are quite relaxed when it comes to imposing rules on citizens. The best comparison to make is with the country’s North American neighbour, the USA. While in most provinces in the USA it is illegal for citizens to gamble online using money funded originally by USD, in Canada, citizens can choose to play at any online casino without breaking any laws. So, when people hear that iGaming laws in Canada are extremely strict, they can be forgiven for their confusion.
Strict laws in regard to iGaming are applied to any Canadian-based business looking to offer online casino or betting services to citizens inside or outside the country.
However, there does appear to be some change coming to Canada, with Ontario leading the way. The state is already putting its new iGaming licensing into action, and it is expected to be in full operation by March 2022 with companies already offering Ontario iGaming license application assistance. The new changes to iGaming laws will mean local businesses can apply to legally offer online casino and betting services within Ontario.
The question is, will other provinces or territories in Canada join Ontario? There is no definitive answer, but what we can do is look at different scenarios that lead to a ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘maybe’ answer.
Because across most of Canada, hosting an online casino from within the country is illegal, online casinos offering services in Canada are overseas. Many of these casinos are well regulated under EU laws, and as a result, some online provinces and territories in Canada may not be overly concerned about player safety. Nonetheless, a few bad eggs in the market could change the currency set up.
Against Domestic Licensing: Right now, online casinos offering slots and table games in Canada generally hold a license with the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) and/or a Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC). Any casino licensed under these 2 authorities gives players from Canada player protection through the licensing’s dispute management services. If players stick to an online canadian casino under these authorities, there is no major concern for player safety or casino scams because the MGA and KGC authorities will stand up for the player’s rights and even offer free legal mediation services.
For Domestic Licensing: However, there is another casino authority which is the Curacao eGaming licensing, which could lead to some concern because the authority is not even close to the MGA or KGC in terms of player protection. On top of this, there are plenty of online casinos with no license. These few bad eggs could result in state by state or territory licensing in the same fashion as Ontario.
For Domestic Licensing: One of the most convincing reasons for domestic licensing is to stop the outflow of Canadian Dollars overseas. It is estimated that Canadians spend in excess of CAD 4 billion a year playing at casinos owned by companies overseas, with the large majority of them registered in Gibraltar, Curacao, Malta, and Cyprus. If a domestic license was set up within a state or territory (in the same way as Ontario), this would prevent the outflow.
For Domestic Licensing: Tax is always going to play a major role in any argument being made by other Canadian provinces or territories looking at Ontario’s example. We only have to look over the US and see the colossal tax revenue being made in states in which online casinos are legal.
On a federal level, all online gambling is illegal by default unless a province or territory brings in framework. That means states and provinces have the final say and control their gambling laws, and that counts for online and offline gambling. However, out of 10 provinces and 3 territories only 4 authorities already have licensing in place, while there is a fifth, which is the Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC), but this is a general license that is privately owned and covers all of Canada.
· Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba
· The Quebec Alcohol, Racing, and Gaming Commission
· The British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC)
· Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO)
Each of these authorities already have some online gambling laws in place. From an online gambling perspective, Manitoba, Quebec, and British Columbia all have government run or locally licensed and strictly controlled online casinos local citizens can join.
There seems to be no rush or major concern to domestically regulate the Canadian iGaming market province by province or by territory. The MGA and the KGC licensing already do a great job protecting Canadian players that play at overseas online casinos. That is despite a few rouge casinos out there, but most Canadian casino players are well educated and know to look for an online casino with a reputable license and logical terms and conditions.
However, money talks, and there are several advantages to having domestic licensing. First, to keep the money currently going overseas within Canadian borders. Second, the tax revenue from licensing could be a very persuasive factor. It does seem the arguments of domestic licensing outweigh the arguments against, and eventually domestic licensing will be all over Canada.