Gambling laws have never been straightforward, and online gambling only complicated this issue further. After all, if gambling is illegal in a country but a citizen goes on holiday to another country, are they breaking the law? And if the answer is no, as it always is, then what happens when that citizen plays in an online casino that is located overseas?
As you can imagine, this question has caused a lot of issues over the years and it has forced many countries to rethink their stance on gambling. Not because they have changed their views on it morally, but because they know that if they stop their citizens from gambling in their own country they will just get their fix somewhere else, potentially costing them a fortune in lost tax revenue while still not addressing the issue at hand.
This was one of the issues faced by the Canadian authorities and over the years they have made a number of moves to try and resolve it. The end result is still somewhat unclear and at times contradictory, but here is a basic rundown covering 5 important points in plain English.
- The Provinces Have the Right
Canada, just like the United States, allows its provinces to set their own laws on important matters. This doesn’t mean that they can suddenly declare “martial law” or “free Skittles for everyone” but rather it means they can put forward and vote on specific bills.
Gambling is one such issue, and due to the tax revenue and tourist money that it can generate, all provinces in Canada have pretty much embraced it. That’s why you will find a host of horse racing tracks and casinos in the country.
The problem is, online gambling can not be confined to a single territory. What’s more, while the criminal code does give each province the right to vote on interactive gambling laws, it also explicitly states that only the government of the country and/or province may operate any form of gambling.
However, there is one exception:
- The Kahnawake Gaming Commission
The Kahnawake Native Reserve is the only non-government entity that can establish an online casino for profit within Canada. They have the right to grant licenses to online casinos, sports books and poker sites within Canada, providing a casino meets all of the criteria set by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission.
The Kahnawake Gaming Commission have helped to open the doors to online gambling in Canada and have made the situation a little less convoluted. But it still begs the question, what about casinos based outside of Canada?
Well, for that we have to get convoluted again.
- From Malta to Canada
Canadians are some of the most active players on major online casinos. If you play a poker tournament on PokerStars you will see a signifiant number of Canadians, and the same goes for countless casinos. In fact, you only need to look at the history of Mega Moolah jackpots to see how much Canadians dominate this industry.
In the last few years there have been more Canadian winners of this jackpot than anyone else, including the UK, which is notorious for having a big gambling culture. This jackpot is available on all Microgaming casinos. Contrary to what you might think, the Mega Moolah jackpot on Royal Vegas is not different to the one on 32 Red or Spin Palace. It’s the same one, provided by the same company, and created following millions of plays on hundreds of casinos.
More than 90% of these casinos are based in Europe and hold licenses from the Maltese Gaming Authority. This means that casinos that have their foundation and regulation in Europe, do more business in Canada than anywhere else.
If you needed anything to add more opacity to the confusing online gambling rules in Canada, this is it. Except, there is one important thing to note here, something that often gets overlooked: these sites have licenses from the Kahnawake Gaming Commission.
It’s not as immediately obvious as their other licenses and in some cases the licenses come from the parent company and not the casino itself, but they definitely exist and this is what ensures they are allowed to operate as they do within Canada.
- Banking Options Matter
Despite the widespread online gambling in Canada, players may still face issues if they use certain payment options, even if those sites are regulated by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. This is true of options liked to Canadian bank accounts and cards, such as Amex, Visa and MasterCard, but it’s easy to avoid. Players simply need to use alternative banking options, like PayPal, Skrill, and other web wallets.
Luckily, all of the aforementioned Malta Gaming Authority casinos offer these banking options and many more.
The rules governing these are not as strict as the ones applied to players in the US. Where Americans are concerned, they will struggle to use anything but a wire transfer, as even web wallets don’t want to facilitate online gambling payments through the US. Canadians do need to advise a little caution though and if they want hassle-free deposits and withdrawals at all times they need to use web wallets and other instant payment options.
- Gambling is Legal
As mentioned at the outset of this article, online gambling laws are not straightforward in Canada, but the good news is that it is available, it is legal for the most part, and as a player you will no face any repercussions even if that is not the case.
What’s more, every year sees a new law change that makes the rules a little more transparent and ensures Canadians can gamble more freely and more easily than ever before.
In the meantime, Canadians just need to follow the lead set by European online casinos. These big brands have a better grasp of the law than the average Canadian player does and if there are changes big enough to cause concern, they will make sure players know about them. They are not in the business of ignoring Canadian law, they don’t want to get sued and they definitely don’t want to get shut down, not for the sake of one country and one group of players.
If they offer services to Canadian players, it means they likely have a license from the Kahnawake Gaming Commission or are otherwise authorized to offer such services. So, stick with the big names and you’ll be fine.