Canadian Gambling Legislation in 2021

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It is illegal to operate an online casino in Canada without a license, however, it is perfectly safe and legal for Canadians to play at any offshore casino.

It is estimated that by 2023 global revenues from the gambling industry will reach 525 billion US dollars. Online gambling and betting account for a significant portion of this revenue with a market estimate of $ 66.72 billion in 2020. Canadians have shown an incredible appetite for online gambling, despite regulatory hurdles for private companies looking to enter the online gaming industry in Canada. That leaves Canadians with limited options: provincial gambling, gray markets, or offshore sites. Together, these figures suggest attractive opportunities for online gambling in Canada.

With the C-218 coming into force on August 27, 2021, there is indeed a step forward in liberalizing the legal framework for gaming in Canada, and its impact on private business operations is quite limited until the provinces and the federal government strengthens and clarifies their approach to online gambling. In particular, Ontario has adopted a decidedly more liberal interpretation of their provincial regulator than others, which may be an opportunity for private gambling operators in Ontario and the rest of Canada – assuming that such liberal interpretations are validated.

Each one of the 10 ten provinces in Canada is responsible for its own set of regulations with respect to both land-based as well as online gambling. All casinos, bookmakers, lotteries, and other gambling operators are required to follow the laws as specified by the governing province in which they are based. While laws are similar across most of the provinces, the types of gambling which are permitted as well as the legal age for gambling do vary slightly.

Gambling in British Columbia. The British Columbia Lottery Corporation has been offering gaming to BC residents for more than three decades, and the available gaming options have continued to grow over the years. You must be at least 19 years to enter a casino or partake in gambling in British Columbia. Playing in casinos, buying lottery tickets, engaging in online gambling, and betting on horse races are all legal under the laws of the province. Whether you live in British Columbia or neighboring U.S. states such as Oregon and Washington, here are the legal forms of available gaming:

  • Lottery. The British Columbia Lottery Corporation has been offering government sanctioned games since 1985. Players must be 19 or older to buy a ticket, and winners have one year from the draw date to claim their prize.
  • Horse Racing. Fraser Downs is the only active track in BC. For those who don’t want to drive to Surrey, off-track simulcasts can also be enjoyed at over 15 locations throughout the province.
  • Casinos. There are over 15 casinos within the province, with a single facility belonging to the First Nations. The largest in terms of gaming space is Hard Rock Casino Vancouver, and it contains 1,000 slots, 70 table games, a poker room, and 8 baccarat tables in a high-limit room.
  • Charitable Gaming. Non-profit organizations may apply for a license to conduct one of the following charitable events: ticket raffles, bingo, poker, wheel of fortune, and social occasion casinos.
  • Online Gambling. The only regulated and entirely legal gambling site in BC is PlayNow, which is owned by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation. Launched in 2004, the site contains sports betting, lottery, bingo, poker, and casino games.
  • Sports Betting. Tickets are available in convenience stores and other licensed locations. Players must wager on at least two games, and most contests require a 100% winning percentage in order to receive a payout.

Gambling in Quebec. Quebec has been offering legal games of chance since 1970, and the available options have continued to grow over the decades. Quebec’s nine land-based casinos are definitely a sight to behold, surrounded by stunning landscapes and decked out in extravagant finishings. Their selection of gaming choices is also quite extensive. If you’d rather get some gaming thrills from the comfort of your own home, however, you’ll be happy to hear that online casino gambling is also completely legal within this province. If you find yourself in this predominantly French-speaking province, here are the most readily available forms of legal gambling:

  • Casinos. Quebec currently has nine land-based casinos, and these are popular with both locals and neighboring residents in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. All activities are overseen by the Quebec Alcohol, Racing, and Gaming Commission.
  • Horse Racing. Only one race track currently exists in the state, and it primarily offers harness racing. In addition to placing wagers at the track, bettors can also pick their favorite ponies at several off-track facilities.
  • Lottery. A wide range of lottery games are offered, from Lotto Max and Quebec Extra to Tout ou Rien. Drawings are held on a daily basis, and the lottery represents the oldest form of legal gambling within Quebec.
  • Online Gambling. Residents can play at any online site that’s willing to accept them, including the government-owned Espacejeux. This may soon change, however, as the Quebec government has announced plans to block any online gaming site that’s not approved and licensed by Loto-Quebec.
  • Sports Betting. Legal residents of Quebec can wager on sports teams or individual athletes through a game known as Mise-O-Jeu. Players can wager on two to eight options, although all picks must be successful in order to receive a payout. Wagers can be made online or at participating locations such as convenience stores.
  • Video Lottery Terminals. Quebec was one of the last provinces to offer video lottery terminals. In 1994, it was estimated that over 40,000 illegal machines were in operation within the province. That number has dropped substantially since over 12,000 VLTs have been legally placed in select brasseries, bars, and gaming hall complexes.
  • Bingo & Charitable Gaming. From bingo and Kinzo to raffles, all charitable gaming within the province is regulated and licensed by Loto-Quebec.

Gambling in Ontario. Ontario has the highest population of all Canadian provinces, and over 90% of residents in Southern Ontario are within a one-hour drive of a legal gaming establishment. The legal age for gambling in Ontario is 19 but what makes this province stand out is that a portion of gambling revenue is invested back into the community by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) hence why casinos are considered as both commercial and charitable. Additionally, race tracks also house slot machines and other games, functioning as smaller casinos. Online gambling is also legal across ON.

In July 2021, Ontario established iGaming Ontario, a subsidiary of its provincial gaming regulator, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (the “AGCO”). The legislation that permits the creation of iGaming Ontario states that the purpose of iGaming Ontario is to “conduct and manage” iGaming in Ontario. However, on its website, iGaming Ontario states that it intends to “enter into commercial agreements with operators who meet rigorous standards of the game and operator integrity, fairness, player protection, and social responsibility” to offer online gaming experiences to Ontarians “in accordance with the Code and provincial law”. In other words, while the legislation makes it clear that iGaming Ontario is to conduct and manage iGaming, iGaming Ontario proposes instead to enter into commercial agreements with private operators to do so.

Some of the most popular legal forms of gaming in Ontario include the following :

  • Casinos. Over 25 land-based casinos are active in Ontario, and these range from privately-owned entities to charitable locations run by the government.
  • Slot Machines. In addition to casinos, slots may be found at racetracks and other select locations. There are more of these gaming devices in Ontario than any other province in Canada.
  • Horse Racing. Quarter horse, Standardbred, and thoroughbred racing is available at racetracks from Ottawa to Fort Erie. These tracks enjoyed great success when slot machines were added in 1998, but their withdrawal by the government in 2013 has resulted in a massive downturn.
  • Sports Betting. Players may use the Pro-Line service to wager on multiple types of sports through the Internet or land-based lottery centers. At least two games must be wagered on, although the customer can choose from a number of betting options such as the point spread or over/under.
  • Lottery. In addition to national lottery drawings, residents can take part in provincial drawings that are administered by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. Ontario boasts one of the largest lottery networks in North America, and in 2011 their fiscal revenue was in excess of $3 billion.
  • Charitable Gaming. This includes raffles and bingo. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation oversees licensing of such games, and they also manage a number of eBingo websites. Along with various lottery games, bingo generates the largest amount of gaming revenue for Ontario.

Gambling in Alberta. The largest of the Prairie Provinces in terms of population, Alberta has a long tradition of sports and gambling. They receive over 4% of their budget from gambling revenue, which is more than any other province in the nation. Unfortunately, a 2013 study showed that half the revenue came from problem gamblers, which means the province has a long way to go in terms of identifying and treating gambling addiction. While gambling is legal in Alberta, most of the online casino sites are run by offshore gaming operators, some of which are regulated by international gaming watchdogs. The province has a total of 20 land-based casinos, 5 of which are First Nations operators while the other fifteen are non-reservation casinos. The legal here is only 18 years, the same as in Manitoba and Quebec. Some of the most popular legal forms of gaming in Alberta include the following:

  • Horse Racing. Legal horse racing is available in Alberta at the following: Alberta Downs, Century Downs, and Northlands Park. In addition, 15 teletheatres are also available in such diverse locations as Leduc and Peace River.
  • Video Lottery Terminals. Managed by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, these devices are located at age-restricted, liquor-licensed facilities across the province. Retailers are limited to 10 machines, while gaming centers can have from 15 to 30. Over 6,000 are currently in operation.
  • Sports Betting. The Sport Select service allows players to wager on two or more games in parlay style. No more than $250 in wagers can be made per day.
  • Casinos. Over 25 casinos are located in Alberta. Most of these are charitable operations, which means the casino splits the profits with various charities throughout the region. A couple of government-owned casinos are also present, as well as a handful that are operated by the First Nations.
  • Online Gambling. Residents of Alberta can gamble at online casinos and sportsbooks without any limitations.
  • Lottery. Drawings occur daily and are overseen by the Western Canada Lottery Corporation.
  • Charitable Gaming. In addition to most of the casinos in the province, Alberta also offers legal charitable gaming such as bingo and pull tickets to qualified non-profit groups.

Gambling in Nova Scotia. As the second smallest Canadian province, a surprisingly large proportion of the Nova Scotia population enjoy gambling activities, both land-based as well online. 87% of adults playing games of chance at least once a year (for an average annual expenditure of $609). The legal age is 19 years old, like most other provinces, but the major drawback is that residents of the province only have access to websites, making for a rather limited variety of games. The following forms of legal gaming are available throughout the province:

  • Lottery & Charitable Gaming. Video and ticket lotteries, as well as other charitable games such as bingo, fall under the domain of the Atlantic Lottery Corporation. Tickets can be purchased online or from over 1,000 retailers throughout the province.
  • Casinos. There are two land-based casinos in Nova Scotia, and both are government owned. Casino Nova Scotia has locations in Halifax and Sydney, and both facilities offer traditional slots and table games. The average payback percentage for slots, as reported by the Nova Scotia Provincial Lotteries and Casino Corporation, is 92%.
  • Horse Racing. Three legal horse racing tracks are currently available in Nova Scotia: Inverness Raceway, Northside Downs, and Truro Raceway. A handful of teletheatres are also available for those who want to bet but can’t make it to the track.
  • Sports Betting. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation uses the Pro-Line system to allow residents to wager on sports. A minimum of two athletes or teams must be wagered on in parlay fashion, and this is common throughout the nation. Customers must be 19 or older in order to participate.
  • Online Gambling. The province offers no gaming sites of their own, but residents can still seek out thousands of offshore casinos and sportsbooks without fear of legal troubles.
  • Video Lottery Terminals. There are over 2,700 VLTs in Nova Scotia at more than 300 licensed retailers. The average prize payout ranges from 93% to 95% of the total wagers. Legal games are only found in age-restricted locations such as bars and liquor stores.

Gambling in Saskatchewan. According to a study conducted by Statistics Canada, residents of Saskatchewan spend more per household on gambling than any other province. With a total of 9 land-based casinos, Saskatchewan has a large and varied array of slot machines, table games, and poker. Officially, the provincial lottery is the only form of gambling that has been legalized in Saskatchewan. However, since regulations only relate to gambling services based and licensed within the province, there’s no law stopping gambling operators based elsewhere from targeting residents. If you happen to be a citizen of this sunniest part of Canada, here are the legal gaming pastimes currently available:

  • Video Lottery Terminals. These machines have been present in the province since 1993. A cap of 4,000 machines has been set, and there were 3,991 at 620 sites as of March 2015. Revenue from the games goes to the government’s General Revenue Fund. For 2014-15, the provincial net income from VLTs was $179.6 million.
  • Charitable Gaming. Any not-for-profit organization may apply with the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority for a license to conduct bingo or raffles.
  • Casinos. The province has six casinos run by the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, as well as two more operated by the Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation. In the case of First Nations casinos, revenue is split between the First Nations Trust, the government’s General Revenue Fund, and Community Development Corporations.
  • Lottery. This form of gambling has been available in the province since 1974. Operated by Saskatchewan Lotteries, proceeds are used to fund more than 12,000 groups.
  • Sports Betting. Sports Select offers legal parlay betting on the following sports: baseball, basketball, hockey, football, and soccer. Wagers generally range from $2 to $100.
  • Online Gambling. While online gaming providers are prohibited from being based in the province, offshore sportsbooks and casinos are still free to offer their services to residents.
  • Horse Racing. There are three legal tracks operating in the province, although the West Meadows Raceway was forced to temporarily halt business in 2014. A few provincial teletheatres also exist, allowing patrons to take advantage of off-track betting facilities.

Gambling in Manitoba. Gambling is legal in this western Canadian province, and activities are overseen by the Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba (which was created in 2014 by combining the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission and the Manitoba Gaming Control Commission). Manitoba boasts a large choice of online gambling sites, making it easy for residents to get their gaming thrills from both desktop and mobile devices. While the official laws on online gambling within the province remain within a grey area, however, lotteries, bingo, and land-based gambling activities are permitted. Residents and visitors can enjoy the following legal forms of gambling within the borders of the province:

  • Online Gambling. After British Columbia enjoyed success with a government-owned gaming website, Manitoba adopted the same business model in 2013. While over 1,000 unlicensed casinos and sportsbooks are available from offshore operators, PlayNow Manitoba is the only one operating within the borders of the province.
  • Casinos. Manitoba has a mixture of government-owned and First Nations casinos. Winnipeg has two of these facilities, and both are owned by the provincial government.
  • Horse Racing. Both thoroughbred and Standardbred races are conducted in the province, and Assiniboia Downs is the only permanent track for such events. Winnipeg has several off-track betting facilities, and both live and simulcast events are overseen by the Manitoba Horse Racing Commission.
  • Lottery. The Western Canada Lottery Corporation offers lottery tickets and scratch-off cards. These can be purchased online or at licensed retailers such as convenience stores.
  • Charitable Gaming. Not-for-profit organizations within Manitoba can apply for a license to conduct one of the following forms of charitable gaming: bingo, raffles, break open, Monte Carlo, Calcutta auction, sports draft, and Texas Hold’em poker tournament.
  • Sports Betting. The Sport Select system allows players to wager up to $250 per day on two or more sporting event outcomes. The minimum age to play is 19, and participants can choose from options such as props, pools, and over/unders.
  • Video Lottery Terminals. These games of chance are confined to VLT lounges throughout the province and overseen by Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries. The three most popular versions of the game are spinning reel, poker, and keno.

Gambling in New Brunswick. The New Brunswick Lotteries and Gaming Corporation (NBLGC) is the provincial authority responsible for overseeing most gambling activities. While there are only 2 land-based casinos, lotteries, harness racing, and charitable gaming are quite common. Meanwhile, the status of online gaming is also allowed. Even though the population of the province stands at less than one million, residents have a wide range of legal gambling activities to choose from. These include:

  • Video Lottery Terminals. In 1990, New Brunswick became the first province to introduce video lottery terminals. The minimum payback percentage required by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation is 80%. Almost all of the province’s 2,000 machines, however, have a 93% payout.
  • Casinos. The only casino in the province is located in Moncton, and it contains an assortment of slots, table games, and poker.
  • Horse Racing. Permanent racetracks are located in Saint John and Fredericton, while the Great Western Fair circuit brings the excitement of racing to various regions of the province on a rotating basis. As of 2015, off-track betting facilities were available in Dieppe and Quispamsis.
  • Online Gambling. Residents can choose from a large number of offshore casinos and sportsbooks, although none of these are regulated by the government. In recent years, New Brunswick has openly discussed the idea of launching their own casino website in the mold of Manitoba and British Columbia.
  • Sports Betting. The Atlantic Lottery oversees Pro-Line, a parlay-style sports betting game that can be purchased online or through hundreds of licensed dealers.
  • Lottery. Lottery tickets can be legally purchased at over 900 land-based dealers. Drawings and payouts are conducted by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation.
  • Charitable Gaming. Over 800 charitable licenses are currently issued to non-profit organizations within the province. Raffles are the most common, although bingo remains the most popular gambling activity among adults 65 or older.

Gambling in Prince Edward Island. Consisting of one major island and 231 smaller ones, Prince Edward Island is Canada’s smallest province happens to have one of the lowest gambling rates in the country. The Prince Edward Island Lotteries Commission has been overseeing gaming in the region since its creation in 1976. However, there is still a healthy variety of gambling activities available, whether it’s land-based casinos, sports betting as well as online operators. It only houses 2 physical betting venues though so it’s wiser to go online if you want more choice. Even though the province consistently has one of the lowest gambling rates, the following types of gaming are offered:

  • Sports Betting. The Pro-Line service allows anyone 19 or older to make parlay bets on various sporting events. Tickets may be purchased online or at licensed land-based retailers.
  • Lottery. The provincial lottery is operated by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation.
  • Horse Racing. There are two race tracks on Prince Edward Island: Charlottetown Driving Park and Summerside Raceway. Unfortunately, there are no off-track betting facilities currently in operation.
  • Video Lottery Terminals. In 2003, the Atlantic Lottery Corporation became the sole VLT operator for Prince Edward Island. In 2008, an initiative was enacted to reduce video lottery sites by 50% and the number of terminals by 20%. In 2014, there were 268 terminals at 39 sites, and rules were relaxed to allow these devices to operate every day of the week.
  • Charitable Games. Non-profit organization can apply for a license to conduct charitable games such as bingo, raffles, and lottery-style contests.
  • Online Gambling. Offshore gambling is unregulated, but it remains available to any PEI resident who can locate a site willing to accept their patronage.
  • Casino. The only legal casino is actually a “racino,” as it combines harness racing and casino-style gaming. Blackjack, poker, and slots are available, and anyone over the age of 19 can take part.

Gambling in Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s pretty much slim pickings when it comes to land-based gambling in Newfoundland and Labrador, with just one casino and another smaller ‘racino’ – basically a racetrack with a handful of casino games. Gambling just doesn’t seem to appeal to residents as much as it does in other provinces. However, the good news is that online gambling has not been banned here, meaning that you can still access gambling products. The most notable exception is land-based casinos, although First Nations tribes do have the right to open their own facilities. The following forms of gambling are currently legal within the province:

  • Charitable Gaming. Charitable gaming such as raffles and bingo are overseen throughout the province by the Department of Government Services, and over 3,800 charitable licenses are currently in use.
  • Lottery. Managed by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, this provincial lottery offers top jackpots ranging from $10 million to $50 million. Tickets may be purchased online or at one of over 1,000 licensed retailers.
  • Horse Racing. St. John’s Racing and Entertainment Centre is the only legal horse racing track currently operating in Newfoundland. In addition to live racing, patrons can also take advantage of simulcasting facilities to enjoy races from other Canadian tracks, as well as annual events such as the Kentucky Derby. This form of entertainment is co-regulated by Standardbred Canada and the Canadian Pari-mutuel Agency.
  • Video Lottery Terminals. Overseen by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, more than 2,000 of these devices are present at 500 age-restricted retailers across the province. The minimum payout percentage is set at 80%, while the more generous machines have a maximum of 93%.
  • Online Gaming. Since land-based casinos are currently banned in the province, numerous citizens turn to the Internet to get their gaming fix. While no sportsbooks or virtual casinos are located in Newfoundland, there are over 1,000 offshore sites willing to accept players.
  • Sports Betting. The Pro-Line service offers parlay sports wagering to anyone who meets the minimum age of 19 (which is also the legal drinking age in Canada). Tickets can be purchased for as little as $2, while the maximum daily wager is capped at $250.

The majority of casinos that operate online do so in countries that are friendly to operators. Generally, these are offshore operating in Malta, Costa Rica, and other countries. The fact they are identified as “offshore” is a bit confusing as a large number of offshore casinos are situated within the Canadian borders; technically falling under their own jurisdiction as they are hosted on Native reserves.

Contact Szilaghi Consulting to Get Your Kahnawake Gambling License

For more than 17 years, Szilaghi Consulting has been working with startups, entrepreneurs, and companies already established for online gambling. We have worked all over the world, but we have a special and extensive practice in Kahnawake, Canada. During this time, I gained a deep knowledge of the requirements and general obligations of the process of incorporating the company and obtaining a license for gambling in Kahnawake. We have established relationships with industry stakeholders, including authorities, service providers, and other gaming companies. This positions us as market leaders in assisting our customers with Kahnawake licensing goals.

Through our extensive and carefully verified network of contacts in the country, we can ensure that you move efficiently through the entire setup process. We know everything you need to know about requirements, criteria, nuances, and possible obstacles and can help you prevent and navigate whatever comes your way.

To incorporate the company and apply for a gambling license in Kahnawake or just to discuss your plan, vision or options, contact Szilaghi Consulting today.

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