An Overview of Canada's Gambling Laws in 2021

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An Overview of Canada's Gambling Laws in 2021

Gambling and betting for real money are some of the most popular entertainment activities in Canada and with a wealth of options in both land-based and online casinos, Canadian players have a ton of possibilities to choose from.

With no shortage of places to play, it begs the question: What is the state of gambling laws in Canada? Canada hasn’t always been a gambling-friendly country, but today, the industry is booming. Let’s look at Canada’s gambling laws in 2021.

A brief history of Canadian gambling laws

Historically, gambling in Canada was viewed as disreputable behaviour — much like it is/was in the United States. This all changed, however, in the 1960s when the Canadian government began to see the financial advantages of legalized gambling.

Implementing the first national lottery in 1974, the funds raised helped pay for the Olympics in Montreal. Although smaller casinos had existed in Canada in previous years, the first commercial casino opened in Winnipeg in 1989, followed by a casino in Montreal in 1993.

As more gambling establishments popped up in Canada over the years, gambling legislation gradually grew and evolved to keep up.  

Gambling in Canada today

The legality of gambling in Canada is a discussion of nuance and caveats. Laws surrounding gambling activity are full of exceptions, vague interpretations, and empty spaces. The laws currently on the books don’t cover all scenarios that may occur.

However, what we do know is that the legal gambling age in Canada is 19 years old and Canadians are free to enjoy more than 100 gambling venues across the country, completely legally. When it comes to online casinos, the rules are a bit more ambiguous.

Online casinos

Each of the 10 self-governing provinces in Canada has different rules governing gambling and the relationship between the government and private companies varies widely from region to region. Some provinces allow private companies to operate the businesses and some don’t, but in every instance, the government owns the property and issues licenses as it sees fit.

While it is illegal to operate a casino in Canadian territory, it’s not explicitly illegal for players to gamble online. As it stands, online gambling in Canada falls into a somewhat grey area as there are no written laws governing the activity. The good news is, there are no laws preventing Canadian players from accessing either Canadian or offshore casinos.

There are a number of licensed, regulated, and very reputable online casinos in Canada, all of which you can find at Many Canadians also choose to play online at offshore casinos that are very friendly to Canadian players.

The unregulated market

Despite the ever-present threat of anti-gambling campaigners in Canada, lawmakers there have read between the lines and realized that just because something is illegal, doesn’t mean people aren’t doing it.

In 2019, the Canadian Gaming Association estimated that the country’s unregulated gambling industry totalled approximately CAD $14 billion. Their thinking is that kind of money would be better off in the government’s coffers, used for social programs and education, rather than funding foreign casino operators. By legalizing this industry, these funds would be collected and used for the benefit of Canadians. A worthy goal, indeed.

New laws in the works

This year, several new items are in the works for upcoming Canadian gambling legislation. One such bill under consideration, Bill C-218, is currently being discussed to allow single-game sports betting to occur legally, issuing licenses to sports betting operators, if passed.

As it stands, Canadian law only allows parlay sports betting, meaning bettors must wager on multiple games of three or more. This is also known as accumulator or combo betting. This new law has seen bitter opposition in the past but may soon be resolved, thanks to the Private Members’ Bill being given second reading by the House of Commons.

Ontario residents may soon be celebrating as well, as the state legislature there has reopened discussions related to igaming in the province in general. This could lead to many new changes for Ontario, first and foremost being the establishment of online casinos in the province.

Play on in Canada

The online casino market in Canada is one of the best in the world. There are so many safe, secure, and bonus-filled options for Canadians to enjoy without fear of breaking any obscure gambling laws. Canadian tax law treats gambling winnings as “windfalls” too, which means that no taxes are ever levied on casino winnings, making it an even better place to play.

With so many people stuck at home in the current climate of the Covid-19 global pandemic, choosing to play at an online casino is just good sense. And luckily for Canadians, the laws surrounding this popular pastime are exceedingly friendly and getting more so every day.

Head of Content, reality TV watcher and lover of cookies.