Ontario Online Gambling Pt. 1: The Canadian Status Quo
The launch of the first sites operating under the new system will take place on April 4. Many Canadians are confused about the legal status of online gambling under Canadian law.
Ontario Online Gambling Pt. 1: The Canadian Status Quo.
This series looks at how things will change under privatized iGaming in Ontario. It also explains how that market will differ from Canadian online gambling in other provinces and from regulated markets elsewhere.
The current status of online gambling in Canada is unclear. The relevant laws predate the modern internet. Most provinces have some form of lottery-operated online betting. First Nations conduct some gambling activities in the country.
Ontario Online Gambling Pt. 1: The Canadian Status Quo. Federal law allows provincial agencies to conduct and manage most forms of gambling. Almost all Canadian provinces have some form of lottery-operated online gambling available to them. First Nations conduct some gambling activities in Canada.
The Canada Criminal Code defines gambling broadly. It includes most things we think of as gambling, including casino games.
The most important language in the Code grants rights to limited forms of gambling. It prohibits some activities, such as three-cardmonte. Last year, single-game sports betting was banned, but in June, Bill C-218 was signed, opening the door to sports gambling in Canada. Most gambling is legal in Canadian law, and it falls to the provinces to “conduct and manage” the business through provincial agencies or crown corporations.
It is lawful for a province to conduct and manage a lottery scheme in accordance with any law enacted by the legislature of that province.
Canada's gambling laws don't account for the internet. Canada has not taken any action to regulate online gambling. Offshore companies are out of the reach of Canadian law. Quebec's attempt to block access to offshore gambling sites failed. Many offshore operators advertise on Canadian television. . The Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 made it illegal for banks and payment processors to facilitate transactions related to off-shore gambling, but it's still legal for them to serve Canadians.
The law doesn't mention internet gambling but it does address electronic games. It excludes them from charitable gambling, but leaves them available to provincial lotteries.
Nine of the ten provinces have either set up their own online gambling sites through their lotteries or a subsidiary. There are five such sites in total. Ontario Lottery and Gaming offers online products directly through its lottery site. Atlantic Lotterie Corporation covers NB, NL, NS and PEI. Espace Jeux is a Quebec-based subsidiary of Loto-Québec. PlayNow is owned by the British Columbia Lotting Corporation and serves both BC and Manitoba residents.
Ontario Lottery and Gaming offers online products directly through its lottery site. Atlantic Lotteries Corporation covers NB, NL, NS and PEI. Esa Jeux is a subsidiary of Loto-Québec. PlayNow is owned by Alberta Gaming, Lotting and Cannabis. It operates separately from the Western Canada Lottering Corporation.
Ontario Online Gambling Pt. 1: The Canadian Status Quo. PlayNow and Espace Jeux offer online poker. ALC offers sports betting and instant online lottery games in all four provinces. New Brunswick has no authorized online casino games.
PlayNow and Espace Jeux offer online poker. ALC offers sports betting and instant online lottery games in all four provinces. New Brunswick has no authorized online casino games.
Most gambling relies heavily on third-party suppliers. Great Canadian Gaming is a major player in this space with 25 casinos in British Columbia, Ontario and Atlantic Canada. Caesars operates a property in Windsor on behalf of OLG. Provincial lotteries are still clearly “conducting and managing” the business.
Saskatchewan will provide online gambling through First Nations. First Nation groups have often claimed they have treaty rights to conduct gambling. This is likely to result in legal challenges to Ontario's plans. The Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority will operate the online casino.
There is only one model for legally recognized online gambling in Canada, the lottery monopoly. There will be three models soon: Saskatchewan’s First Nations partnership model, Ontario's semi-privatized model and the upcoming Ontario market.
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