Canadian Online Gambling Regulations
Gambling laws are never cut and dry, and when you add online gambling into the mix then you have something that complicates the matter even further. For instance, there are many casinos in Canada, located in most territories, yet 201 of the Gaming and Betting code stipulates that, “Anyone found within a common gambling house without lawful excuse is guilty of an offense punishable on summary conviction.”
Basically, that makes it illegal to be inside an establishment where gambling is present (although we can assume that the word “common” removes casinos from the mix) yet the law seems to contradict itself in practice, due to the fact that gambling is so widespread in Canada and all of it seems to be operating legally.
If you’re still unsure, then there are some important things to consider, which clarify the issue for many gamblers. One of these is the fact that no person has ever been charged with the “crime” of gambling online in Canada. This is not the case in other countries with equally opaque laws, but in Canada it seems that the lawmakers are unwilling and/or unable to prosecute those who have the occasional flutter in an online casino.
We stress the “online casino” part, as the laws are a little clearer when it comes to sports betting. For many there is no difference, gambling is gambling and casino gambling is actually seen as something more harmful, but the laws on sports betting have always been strict and in Canada this is no different.
Another consideration is the fact that whilst the US does not grant rights for companies to run online casinos out of the US, Canada does. There are many casinos in Canada that have been granted official licenses and are allowed to tout their services to Canadians and to non-Canadians alike.
This brings us to poker. Considered a game of skill by most, there are still those who see it as a game of chance. Even then though, there is no way that anyone can look at poker and think it more harmful or more luck-based than other casinos games. Or so you’d think. In truth poker is more tightly regulated than online casinos and there are no online poker rooms operating out of Canada. Canadians are free to gamble on other sites though and they do so in their droves. If you play a few tournaments on Pokerstars or Full Tilt you will see that there are many Canadians playing.
As for tax, if you make gambling your career then you could be taxed. This applies to professional poker players of which Canada has produced a few, but it means that those who gamble occasionally and for fun, will not be taxed at all and probably do not need to declare their winnings. We say “probably” because we have no idea, we’re not accountants and we wouldn’t suggest that you take our advice over an actual accountant.
So, did that clear things up for you? Probably not, right? That’s the issue with online gambling and gambling in general, the laws are difficult to understand and few people will give you as straight answer. If the only thing you’re looking for is a simple yes or no, then we can help…kinda. The truth is that it’s very complicated.
Basically though, as a Canadian living in Canada it is okay for you to join online casinos and play to your heart’s content. It doesn’t matter if that casino is based in Canada or elsewhere, you’re good to go regardless. If, however, that casino has a sports book, then you may be stepping into illegal territory, so make sure you don’t place any bets (even though, as we said earlier, no one has been prosecuted for doing so). There is a good chance that casinos with sports books won’t even allow you to join if you’re from Canada, as is the case with residents from the United States, and this certainly helps. When it comes to poker you’re also free to do as you please, but you’re probably better off sticking to the big global sites like PokerStars, Full Tilt, Party Poker and others — the ones that focus 100% on poker and are definitely not based in Canada.
If you want to check out these laws yourself, then be warned, as it can make for one very complicated and seemingly contradicting read. There is also a lot of it, as it is all contained with the Criminal Code of Canada. Personally, we would prefer a good Stephen King or John Grisham, but if you fancy the dullest read of your life (unless you have ever completed a Phd in accounting, politics or civil engineering, in which case you’ve almost certainly read duller) then go for it. The code can be found here, whilst those seeing something a little less soul destroying can pick up a summary on Wikipedia. Either way, the part of the code you should seek out is Part 7: Disorderly Houses, Gaming and Betting.