Gambling is a complex ecosystem in Canada, mainly due to the lack of uniform legislation. The Criminal Code was amended in 1985 to create a province-based model for legalized gambling. Under this legislative framework, each of Canada's subnational administrative divisions — ten provinces and three territories — was authorized to regulate gambling within its own borders.
Canadian gambling laws have many parallels to the ones in the neighbouring U.S., especially when it comes to sports betting. In both cases, they are jurisdiction-specific. Additionally, offshore gaming is prohibited by both — nevertheless, it isn't outright banned due to the lack of penalty provisions.
Canadian gambling has long been facilitated by provincial government monopolies. However, the passage of C-218 in 2021 and the nationwide legalization of single-game wagering have broken that mould. The new regulation has spurred further growth of the country's online gambling sector and led to the development of a private iGaming market in Ontario.
This guide provides an in-depth analysis of the Canadian gambling market from a legal standpoint. Here, you can learn whether online gambling for real money is allowed throughout Canada, as well as what the legal status of other forms of gambling is.
Disclaimer: This guide is only meant to serve as an informational resource and should not be construed as legal advice. Prior to engaging in any type of gambling activity, it is recommended that you consult a lawyer or a legal expert in the area.
Quick Recap of Gambling Laws in Canada
You are probably here because you are curious about the legality of online gambling in Canada, so let's kick things off with that.
The Canadian gambling system is jurisdiction-based, with each province and territory being self-governing. While certain laws apply nationwide, the ten provinces and three territories have full autonomy over how to conduct and manage land-based and online gambling within their borders. Therefore, gambling rules and regulations vary from region to region in the Great White North.
Legal Status of Online Gambling in Canada
Online gambling laws in Canada are more lenient than those south of the border. In most provinces, players can access both offshore sites and government-run platforms such as OLG Proline.
To cut a long story short, real money casinos in Canada are legal if they're managed by a provincial agency. Offshore casinos are in a grey area — they're not explicitly forbidden, but they're not technically legal either.
The only exception to this is Ontario, which has recently launched its iGaming and online sports betting market. In contrast to other provinces, Ontario online casino players are able to access sites owned by private operators, some of which are among the largest gaming companies in the world.
As for land-based gambling, Canadians are spoilt for choice. The majority of provinces and territories offer in-person gaming facilities, including casinos, video lottery terminals, bingo halls, horse racing tracks, and OTB parlours.
Canadian Gambling Laws by Province — How Are In-Person and Online Gambling Regulated?
Each Canadian jurisdiction regulates gambling differently. First, we'll take a look at Ontario, one of the largest online gambling markets in North America.
Canada's most populous province has been the trailblazer in terms of iGaming legislation for third-party operators. However, it was the passing of the single game sports betting Canada bill on June 22, 2021, that precipitated the development of this lucrative market.
Shortly after bill C-218 went into effect on August 27, 2021, Ontario legislators started to work out the details of the new iGaming market. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and its subsidiary, iGaming Ontario, were tasked with regulatory oversight.
The local OLG Proline platform was launched in August 2021 as the first legal online sportsbook in the province.
On April 4, 2022, the market for foreign operators officially got off the ground. A large number of Ontario casinos, sportsbooks, and poker sites went live on the day of the big opening; however, more have joined the scene since.
The nascent iGaming market in the Heartland Province has hit the ground running. According to the quarterly market report released by iGaming Ontario, first-quarter revenues for Ontario online gambling sites totalled $4.1 billion.
Otherwise, Ontario has a thriving land-based gambling landscape featuring 25+ commercial and government-owned casinos, 15+ live poker rooms, more than a dozen racetracks, and OTB facilities. Bingo games are offered at more than 35 halls across the province.
The legal gambling age in Ontario for online players is 19.
Provincial Gambling Regulator: Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis
Alberta jumped on the single-game wagering bandwagon on September 1, 2021, with the launch of PlayAlberta.ca. To date, this is the sole legal online gambling platform in the Energy Province. The site is operated by Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis (AGLC).
All forms of gambling are permitted in Alberta, including horse race betting, in-person casino gaming, lotteries, charitable betting, poker, and sports betting.
Although Alberta lawmakers don't frown upon offshore casinos, these are still considered illegal.
The legal gambling age is set at 18.
Provincial Gambling Regulator: Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch of the Ministry of Finance
British Columbia capitalized on the opportunity as soon as the federal ban on single-game wagering was lifted.
The only official way to enjoy online gambling for real money in Canada's westernmost province is via the PlayNow platform, which is operated by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation. Alternatively, players can access and register on offshore sites, as they are not illegal. The minimum gambling age is 19.
All forms of land-based gambling are authorized in BC. The province boasts a wide range of retail casinos offering video slot machines and classic table games like roulette, blackjack, and craps.
Provincial Gambling Regulator: Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation
The only licensed online gambling site in Manitoba is PlayNow. The platform was made available to Manitobans thanks to the partnership between the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation and the British Columbia Lottery Corporation.
Manitoba-based players can also join an offshore gambling site, provided that they're 18 or above.
Provincial Gambling Regulator: Gaming Control Branch of the Department of Public Safety
As opposed to the Ontario online gambling market, which is replete with options, New Brunswick only offers one digital gaming hub to its residents — Proline Plus.
Another option for gambling online while in New Brunswick is via an offshore casino. There are no provisions in the Gaming Control Act of 2008 that prohibit playing in casinos operating from outside the province.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Provincial Gambling Regulator: Consumer Affairs Division, Consumer, and Commercial Affairs Branch of Service NL
This province does not operate land-based casinos and therefore does not have a gaming commission. Instead, it's serviced by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC), just like New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.
As for online gambling, it comes down to two choices — players can register with either Proline or an offshore operator.
Provincial Gambling Regulator: Alcohol, Gaming, Fuel, and Tobacco Division of Service Nova Scotia
Online gambling for real money in Nova Scotia is offered through the Atlantic Lottery Corporation portal. The site spreads several gaming verticals — namely, bingo, sports betting, and casino.
Aside from the government-run platform, Nova Scotia residents and visitors can frequent offshore casinos and online sportsbooks. The minimum gambling age is set at 19.
Prince Edward Island
Provincial Gambling Regulator: Prince Edward Island Lotteries Commission
The private iGaming sector is not on the agenda for Prince Edward Island lawmakers. The digital gambling market in the Garden of the Gulf is currently limited to a single option — the ALC platform.
Given the lack of depth, it's no wonder that many players opt for offshore gambling sites. The authorities in Prince Edward Island turn a blind eye to individuals who engage in such practices.
The province hosts a few retail gaming facilities, including a couple of casinos and a racetrack in Charlottetown.
The Espacejeux website is the only regulated online gambling platform in Quebec. It was launched in 2010 by the Crown Corporation Loto-Québec. The portal offers casino games and single-game wagering via the Mise-o-Jeu+ client for users aged 18 or older.
Playing on offshore sites is also permitted, albeit not formally.
Provincial Gambling Regulator: Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority
Online gambling for real money inches closer to reality in Saskatchewan. In particular, the provincial gaming authority (SLGA) signed a contract with BCLC on June 2, 2022, to bring the PlayNow portal to the province.
Meanwhile, players from Saskatchewan can join offshore gambling sites — but only if they are 19 or over.
Yukon, Nunavut, Northwest Territories
Provincial Gambling Regulator: /
There are no online gambling services in these jurisdictions, which leaves offshore gambling sites as the only viable option for online casino games and sports betting.
Canadian Gambling Laws FAQ
Do I have to pay a tax on gambling winnings in Canada?
In most cases, you don't. The Canadian tax system considers winnings earned through games of chance (such as lottery or online casino games) to be windfalls rather than business income (which is taxable). As sports betting involves a random element, it is partially viewed as a game of chance. On the other hand, winnings from poker are taxable if you play professionally.
Long story short — if you're not making a living by gambling, your winnings won't be subject to tax.
Is online casino legal in Canada?
Yes, it is, if the site is licensed by the provincial regulator. It is generally legal for Canadians to play at offshore sites since the online gambling laws in Canada don't illicitly prohibit the practice. In general, authorities are more concerned with going after illegal platforms (sites operating from within the country without a licence) than pursuing individuals who play at offshore sites.
What is the legal gambling age in Canada?
Depending on the province and the type of gambling activity, the minimum gambling age requirements vary from 18 to 19.
What makes the Ontario online casino industry unique?
Ontario is the only jurisdiction in Canada that runs a private iGaming market, meaning that third-party operators are allowed to offer their services to the residents of the province. The same does not apply to other jurisdictions, which only issue licences to government-run sites.