Complete Guide to Gambling in Canada
Gambling has been a popular pastime in Canada since the settlers first introduced it to the land. Throughout the evolution of the country and its provinces, Canada has tried to leave the freedom to gamble to its citizens. This has allowed the growth of everything from land-based casinos to today's online gaming phenomenon, with government-sponsored websites even joining the popular trend.
Our complete guide includes everything a Canadian gambling fan needs to know, including legislation, online casino options, tax obligations, and a glossary of gaming terms. We also have expert reviews of online casinos catering for French-speaking players.
About Legal Gambling in Canada
Gambling began in Canada as far back as the natives, with proof of using sticks for betting and games. After John Cabot's voyage to the Canadian shores in 1497, playing cards were introduced, which brought about early versions of games like faro and developed into poker and blackjack. Dice and games like barbotte also became favorites of Canadians through the years and the evolution of gaming.
Though always permitted, gambling finally came under some government scrutiny in the late 1800s but only to limit somewhat and regulate. As the citizens continued to demand their freedom to play games, laws progressed as well. By 1970, the government decided to leave those decisions to individual provinces, and that has allowed most Canadians to build and frequent land-based casinos as they saw fit. Today, decisions about online gambling are mostly left to the players themselves, with provinces stepping in for the occasional regulatory oversight and participation in the industry.
What were the first Gambling laws in Canada?
In 1892, the Canadian Criminal Code was enacted and included statutes regarding gambling, which was tolerated under certain conditions but nonetheless permitted. That part of the Criminal Code was amended in 1910 to allow pari-mutuel betting for horse racing, and other games of chance were allowed for charitable and religious purposes. Those laws were loose, however, and as the 1900s moved on, gambling was more and more accepted among Canadian citizens.
What laws apply to modern-day gambling in Canada?
In 1970, the Criminal Code was changed again, that time to give oversight of gambling to the provinces. The country's first casino was then built in 1989 in Winnipeg, and many others followed in Manitoba, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia. Even before that, racetracks were built and continued to grow over the decades to become one of the most popular forms of betting in Canada. In addition to live casinos and horse tracks, many provinces approved the installation of video lottery terminals, which generate revenue for the governments. Lotteries have been instituted throughout Canada, and gaming is widely accepted as a revenue generator for charities and religious groups, as well as governments.
The government doesn't view illegal gambling as a real threat to Canadians, as it's widely regarded as a victimless crime. Gambling in most regards is accepted and left to citizens to use responsibly and for entertainment purposes. Most current provincial laws are only enacted to control the revenue and allow for government-sponsored online gambling to contribute to the overall gambling industry.
Who regulates the Canadian gaming industry?
The Canadian Gaming Commission oversees the industry as a whole in Canada, offering information and responding to any serious issues that arise. The organization communicates with the public, government, and media to ensure that the industry is understood properly and kept in perspective. Laws pertaining to casinos, online gaming, sports betting, and other similar activities are enacted and enforced by individual provinces.
Canadian Player Information
Whether Canadians are interested in live poker or Internet gambling, they are free to do what they please with no repercussion from their government. In fact, Canada has gained such a reputation as being friendly to gamblers that many online poker players who were denied the ability to access most international online gaming sites from the United States have moved to Canada over the past few years. The latter has become one of the fastest growing online poker markets in the world.
Since provinces provide their own laws with regards to gambling, some allow players to start at age 18, while others don't allow gambling until a person turns 19. Provinces are also starting their own online gambling sites in order to reap some of the revenue benefits and give citizens an offering to rival the international sites. Those are only options, though, and provinces have stayed away from instituting major restrictions on players or prohibiting them from choosing which site to play.
How many Canadians gamble regularly?
A study in the year 2000 showed that more than 70% of Canadians participated in some form of gambling each year. In 2002, another poll showed that 18.9 million Canadians gambled, mostly on the lottery or other games of chance played only occasionally. More recent surveys show that between 75% and 85% of people in Canada gamble in some form, whether it be charitable gambling or online poker, or any number of other options. Participation in some provinces, like nova Scotia and Saskatchewan, is higher than in other places.
Are Canadians allowed to play on international online casinos?
Yes. There are no laws specifically prohibiting Canadian online gaming players from using international sites. Many of those offshore companies target Canada for its growing market because so many players compete in games like online poker, baccarat, slots, craps, video poker, roulette, blackjack, and other casino games. Canadians have many options for Internet casino play.
Can I legally deposit and withdraw money to online casinos?
Yes. With the openness of most Canadian provincial governments to online gaming, the options for deposits and withdrawals to online casinos are many. In addition to many convenient online payment processors and third-party companies, most banks in Canada allow for direct transfers of funds.
Do I need to pay tax on my winnings?
The amount of taxes that Canadians must pay typically depends on whether or not players declare Canada as their primary residence and whether or not they play poker professionally or recreationally. Players should check with their local tax attorney or specialist because each province also has specific tax codes that must be applied. In general, winning gamblers must pay taxes on those winnings, but the amount varies.
Do online casinos offer play in Canadian Dollars?
There are many online casinos that offer deposit and withdrawal options in C$. That means players need not worry about exchange fees or rates when taking money from their bank or depositing their winnings. In addition, many of the larger international sites, and especially all of the sites run by provincial governments, offer site play in C$, which means there is no translation involved when looking at the cashier page.
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Secure Online Casino Gambling for Canadians
While there is no Canadian-wide legislation to regulate online gambling for its citizens, the ability of each province to develop its own regulations helps in that arena. Even so, the ability of online casinos to be based offshore but cater to Canadians lends itself to a certain number of risks. That is why it is best for Canadian players to only gamble with international companies that have solid reputations and are properly licensed.
Companies like eCOGRA are integral in the regulation of international online gambling operations. They regularly audit companies and ensure that they are operating in a fair and legal manner. Organizations that provide licenses to said companies also conduct audits and monitor them to protect consumers.
How do Canadians know that their funds are safe?
Canadian online casino players should look at the sites on which they play for the licensing commission. That provides information about the legitimacy of the online casino. In addition, organizations like eCOGRA provide banners for the sites that they deem responsible and trustworthy. Through regular audits and other types of oversight, the companies must prove they have earned the approval of eCOGRA, which gives players peace of mind when gambling on those sites.
Are casino games fair?
Yes. Online casinos that are properly licensed use various types of encryption software and random number generators to ensure customer safety. Play is fair on those sites, and players can be sure that their personal account information is safe from hackers and other types of theft. These protections must be in place in order for the sites to maintain their licenses.
Does a player have recourse if they suspect unfair activity?
Yes. In addition to contacting the Canadian Gaming Association and their local governments, players can contact eCOGRA or the licensing entity for any online gambling site at which they suspect unfair activity. There is recourse for players, and the sites must demonstrate that they are not engaging in any accused activity in order to keep their licenses and stay in good standing with the international industry.
Responsible Gaming Resources for Canadians
The Canadian Gaming Association is committed to protecting Canadians and offering a number of resources for responsible gaming - http://www.canadiangaming.ca/responsible-gaming.html. In addition to providing research and tools for players, there are ways to obtain help if the player or a friend or family member suspects a problem or addiction.
Also, Gamblers Anonymous, http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga/addresses, offers resources such as meetings, emails, and phone numbers to contact in various Canadian provinces for help for oneself or another player.
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