A Guide To The Canadian Gambling Laws

Todd Knowles
by Todd Knowles
Published: 21/03/2023
Reading: 3 minutes

Canadian gambling laws are rules and regulations put in place to guide gamblers, casino operators, and their activities. The country takes pride in its robust gaming industry and the gambling laws formulated to ensure the smooth running of the industry.

Gambling in Canada has a long history and existed long before the 15th century when the settlers first came, so it is expected to be legal. However, Canadian lawmakers have always been in discord over matters relating to gambling laws in the country such that some of the rules and prohibitions as far back as the nineteenth century were still in power until recently.

Canadian lawmakers and citizens have taken an even-handed approach to gambling despite the charm of easy money. However, the laws on gambling remain flexible in most cases while keeping the public’s welfare in mind. This article looks at the history of gambling laws in Canada and highlights the current laws.

Gambling Laws and Regulations in Canada

There have been several gambling laws in Canada, beginning with the 1867 Constitution Act, which later metamorphosed into the Criminal Code in 1892. Later, some of these acts' provisions were amended in 1900, 1910, 1925, 1969, 1985, and 1999. Each amendment meant new ways and approaches to gambling, ranging from banning gambling activities to making it legal.

Illegal gambling thrived in Canada several decades ago as an area of organized crime, especially as the country had banned most forms of gambling before 1970. However, things started taking a different turn in 1970 when average citizens began to have access to illegal gaming activities.

The Criminal Code of Canada is the overarching law that oversees gambling activities in Canada. The provisions of Sections 201 to 206 make all lotteries, betting, and gambling illegal throughout Canada although there are very few exemptions like pari-mutuel betting on horse races as far back as 1985. This Criminal Code deals with a wide range of illegal gambling offences, among which the following are most common:

  • Section 201: includes many offences like keeping a betting house or common gaming
  • Section 202: tackles illegal betting, pool-selling, and book-making.
  • Section 206: offences associated with lotteries and other related games of chances
  • Section 209: deals with cheating at games of chance like lotteries to defraud either the house or the customer.

The several amendments mentioned above gradually gave room for some gaming activity. For example, raffles and bingo were allowed for charitable purposes in 1900, and exhibitions and fairs were allowed to apply for gambling licenses to hold gambling events in 1969.

The major amendment was in 1985 when territories and local governments in Canada were given the power to legalize, manage, and control lottery, slot gaming, and other gaming devices playable on the computer. 1999 also saw the suspension of the acts from the Criminal Code that banned gambling, so local governments were given the liberty to manage and legalize all gambling forms.

In 2010, the offences listed above were also amended in the Criminal Code and considered to be serious, although the punishment for them is not so grave, with the maximum punishment being a 5-year prison term.

Gambling Regulation in Canada Now

As each of the 10 provinces (Prince Edward Island, New FoundLand, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario) were now allowed to regulate gambling, a new era emerged, and land-based casinos began to open up in the country.

This development gave rise to betting agencies in each province to license casino operators. The regulatory bodies also ensure that gaming providers create a fair and safe gaming environment as they oversee the location of the facilities and the games they offer.

These provincial regulatory bodies also regulate the marketing and advertising of relevant gambling products and set taxes and duties which firms must adhere. They enact the provision of the Code regarding proceeds of crime and also ensure that firms protect consumers' interests. They do this through laws and Acts formulated like the Consumer Protection Act in Ontario.

On the other hand, online casinos are managed and licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission and various other regulatory bodies. It is also legal and safe for Canadians to play at other casinos offshore, meaning Canada loses out on revenue and tax it would have otherwise received. For example, 392 million Canadian dollars was recorded in offshore casinos as the gross gambling turnover in 2019.

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Author Todd Knowles

Hey there, I'm Todd Knowles. I'm Chief Editor at CasinoGrizzly and a bonafide bonus and slot expert. I've been in the online casino industry for more than 5 years now, and love discovering the best bonuses and trying out the la... Read more about the author

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Last updated: April 12, 2023