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Gambling Legislation in Canada (2021)

If you live in Canada, you may have noticed how few online casinos accept you as a member. By joining sites such as GGBet online casino, you can still play the latest and most popular games, but if we make a general assessment, we can say that Canadian players do not have much choice. Even Neteller had to announce a while ago that it would no longer offer services to Canada due to gambling laws in the country. So, what is the reason for this? Is gambling illegal in Canada, or are there legal options? Below, we talk about everything you need to know about Canadian gambling laws.

The Short History of Gambling in Canada

The history of Canadian gambling dates back to the 15th century. When John Cabot first set foot in this country, he brought the card games played in Europe. Historical records show that card and dice games first entered the country with Cabot and became widespread rapidly. However, such games had been banned in Europe since the time of King Richard, and explorers brought that ban with them too: Gambling was outlawed in many states on religious and moral grounds. The Criminal Code, which went into effect in 1892, also had strict provisions prohibiting gambling.

Until the 1950s, this ban was not taken very seriously. Unlicensed land-based casinos existed almost all over the country: they were fairly small businesses, and even if they were closed, they would reopen elsewhere a few days later. In 1969, the Canadian government realized it could not stop them and amended the law to make land-based casinos legal (provided they obtained a license). In 1985, another change was made, and pari-mutuel horse racing betting was legalized too. This is still the case today: gambling in Canada is prohibited at the federal level, except for land-based casinos and pari-mutuel betting.

However, Canada is a country of provinces, and each province is free to make its own laws on certain issues – including gambling regulations.

Banned on Federal Level but Allowed in States

Canada has 10 provinces and 3 territories. There is also an area called Kahnawake where the Mohawk Indians live – it is quite close to Quebec and known as the “Indian Reserve”. The Indians living in this area are not subject to federal laws and are self-governing within certain limits. They have a very liberal approach to gambling: both land-based and online gambling are legal in Kahnawake. There are already many casinos in the area (they are called “Indian casinos” for short), and an agency called the Kahnawake Gaming Commission also licenses online casinos all over the world.

The provinces, on the other hand, are free to make their own regulations on gambling, as we mentioned above. In this respect, we can say that now gambling is legal in all Canadian provinces: each state has legalized gambling with certain limits and differences. The extent of this may vary from state to state. For example, only sports betting is legal in some regions, while both betting and casino games are legalized in others. Each state has its own licensing agency: A person or company that wants to provide gambling services must obtain a license from these agencies. For example, in the state of Alberta, this agency is called the Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis Commission. For New Brunswick, you must obtain a license from Gaming, Liquor, and Security Branch.

There seems to be no problem so far: Even with a federal ban, all states have legalized gambling to some extent. So, what’s the problem? Why don’t international operators enter the Canadian market?

Let’s try to explain it as simply as possible. For example, let’s say you get a gambling license in Estonia. Estonia is a single state and has no provinces. The license you have obtained is valid within the entire territory of Estonia. In other words, you can serve all of Estonia by purchasing a single license.

In federal states with provinces, you must obtain a federal license to do this. However, as we mentioned above, gambling is prohibited at the federal level in Canada: It is not possible to obtain such a license. Therefore, there is only one option left: to obtain a separate license from each of the states. This is because each license covers only one state: for example, if you get an Ontario license, you can only accept players from Ontario. If you want to serve all of Canada, you must obtain a separate license from each of the 10 provinces, which is practically impossible.

Why? Because each state has different licensing conditions, and the scope of legal gambling varies. As we mentioned above, some states have only legalized betting. So even if you get a license from all of them, you have to limit the scope of the service offered regionally. No international operator wants to deal with such bureaucratic details.

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