When the Levee Breaks: Canada’s Battle with Online Gambling

Canada Online Gambling Regulation OpEdWhen it comes to online gambling, Canada is at a crossroads. After more than 20 years, the country is still considered a “grey market” when it comes to online casinos, online poker, online sports betting, etc.

It’s not that some provinces have it recognized the need for a regulated internet gaming market. The problem is that greed is overtaking common sense.

British Columbia, Ontario, and Québec have all moved to integrate their own provincially run iGaming websites. They are only open to adult residents of their respective jurisdictions, except for Manitoba, which has an agreement with British Columbia that allows its citizens to access the BCLC’s website.

While I commend them for taking the plunge into regulated iGaming, it’s been made abundantly clear that their motives are not just to protect players, but more importantly, to generate as much revenue as possible into their tax coffers.

I’m not saying these websites aren’t state. They are highly secure and do offer all the necessary player protections expected in today’s technology driven world. But ostracizing reputable online casinos, poker rooms, and sports betting sites that operate internationally is a bad move all around.

At present, offshore online casinos continue to accept Canadian players. There are no explicit laws to stop them from doing so. Law merely states that they cannot ‘promote’ their services to Canadians. These operators are not subject to any taxes or licensing use, which could bring in millions of extra dollars per provincial governments.

But instead of regulating international online gambling websites run by distinguished operators, Canada would rather force them out of the country. That would certainly make the homegrown iGaming sites in BC, Ontario and Québec more popular – giving players no other option – but it wouldn’t harvest nearly as much revenue as international licensing.

The United Kingdom has by far the most successful online gambling market in be world. It is home to a massive player base, provides an extensive regulatory framework, and as of 2014, requires all operators located outside of the jurisdiction to apply for – and pay for – and operator’s licensed to except UK players.

On top of that, offshore licensees must pay a 15% point of consumption (PoC) tax on all wagers made by customers originating from the UK. Since then, their government has generated millions upon millions in revenue, because every distinguished operator wants a piece of the UK’s lucrative online gambling pie.

If Canada were to follow in the enormously successful footsteps of the UK, the results could be limitless. But instead, provinces like Québec continue to seek out loopholes in the Criminal Code of Canada that would allow them to eliminate offshore competition.

Québec’s latest attempt to enforce an IP block against international online casinos was an utter failure. How many tax dollars were wasted passing a bill that was our ultimately deemed unconstitutional?

It is beyond time for our lawmakers – our elected leaders – to do the right thing. As the timeless proverb goes, “If you can’t beat them, join them.

Times are hard. Budgets are overpriced. Our provincial governments could solve the problem in one fell swoop by simply welcoming the competition of offshore online gambling sites and taxing them like any other commodity.

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