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Gambling in Canada has existed long before the country was even called so, making it not such a new phenomenon to make an appearance. The country was born in the year of 1867, but long before it bore such a name, natives of the land were testing their luck with various different forms of gambling games. In the year of 1497, the Italian navigator and explorer, Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot), discovered a native population in the lands who played games of chance with each other. Such games were said to help with their physical, mental and spiritual growth, and upon digging further into it, he discovered that they had existed in one form or another since as far back as 6000 B.C. At this time, it’s fairly obvious to note that dice and cards were not part of the repertoire of products used to play, and instead, the scene took on games involving sticks and pebbles.

In the year of 1892, the Canadian Criminal Code banned every form of gambling, although this particular law did not last for a long time. Perceptions on gambling changed quite quickly, and at the turn of the new century, bingo and raffles were permitted for charitable reasons. Horse racing would be added to the legal games 10 years later, and in 1925, fairs and exhibitions were given the right to hold gambling events on their premises. The Canadian government also saw great value in lotteries, so these were also made legal by 1969, with the first official lottery game being held in 1974 in order to raise funds for the Montreal Olympics of that year.

Over the proceeding years, provinces were granted more and more leniency in order to run lotteries, horse races, video slot machines and casinos, and as such, today, the country offers such establishments in nearly every province. While the casino/government relationship in Canada still varies from province to province, they are still considered big business in the country, and they saw a dramatic rise throughout the 90s and onwards. This, of course, led on to the online gambling sector.

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What's the Story Regarding Online Gambling in Canada?

There are a multitude of online casinos, poker sites, and various other gaming entities, which allow residents of Canada to access their favourite products. Online gambling in the country is considered to be one of the legal ‘grey areas’, so to speak, with the legality of such really depending upon who you ask. The law does state that it is illegal to conduct online gambling operations that are based within the nation’s borders, however, many will argue that if the platform is based overseas, there aren’t any laws being broken. Until now, the government has never made any cases against offshore betting providers.

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The Licensing and Regulations in Place

In Canada, gaming is essentially regulated exclusively by the provinces rather than any kind of federal law. Of these, there are five separate regulatory agencies, which are:

  • British Columbia Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch
  • Kahnawake Gaming Commission
  • Nova Scotia Alcohol and Gaming Authority
  • Ontario Alcohol and Gaming Commission
  • Quebec Régie des Alcools des Courses et des Jeux

Therefore, each of these provinces has a slightly different approach towards licensing and regulations for gambling to take place in their borders.

  • In British Columbia, to obtain a licence, the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch website lays out details of the various different licences offered for the various different games. Their licences are split across Ticket Raffles, Poker, Independent Bingos, Wheels of Fortune and Social Occasion Casinos. A licence needs to be obtained prior to a gaming event taking place or an establishment being set up, and there are three licence applications that can be attained, which depends upon the expected gross revenue of the games offered:
    • Class A Licence – More than $20,000 in gross revenue
    • Class B Licence – $20,000 or less in gross revenue
    • Class D Licence – $5,000 or less in gross revenue
  • The Kahnawake Gaming Commission provides licences for both land-based and interactive gaming, with poker forms and raffles forms being available for the land-based establishments, and various different options being available for the interactive side of things. Regulations for both are in place to ensure lawful basis for the control of such gaming, to ensure that all gaming is conducted responsibly, fairly and honestly, and to prevent the sector being associated with crime in any way.
  • The three remaining regulatory agencies all work in a very similar way, providing licences for both alcohol and gaming. As it pertains to the gaming side of things, there are a few different licences available, which are separated into Bingo Lottery, Breakopen Ticket, Casino Registration, Games of Chance Lottery, Ticket Lottery Permit, Ticket Lottery Licence and Video Lottery Terminal Registration.
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