The short answer is yes, it’s perfectly legal to play on online casinos in Canada and more specifically in Ontario. The long answer is that the situation is somewhat complicated.
The federal government bans all gambling in Canada; however, it allows the provinces to conduct and manage gambling within their territory. This is handled by government entities, often referred to as lottery corporations, in Ontario’s case it’s the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG). Any gambling provided in Ontario is technically provided by the OLG even if the customer can’t tell.
As the government isn’t really interested in, or capable of, running every gaming establishment in the province, they created a gaming regulator to handle the regulation of the actual gaming providers. In Ontario this is the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). Gambling providers regulated by the AGCO then deliver the actual gaming experience.
The Grey Market
The law bans gambling in Canada, except through the various provincial lottery corporations. Any entity located in Canada supplying gambling entertainment without going through a lottery corporation is breaking the law. There is a loophole here though, so to speak, because Canadian law does not allow for conviction of offences committed outside Canada, except for some specific horrible crimes. This became important with the advent of online casino gambling. Is an entity wholly located outside Canada that accepts Canadian players breaking the law? They can probably be considered to be doing so, but it’s definitely not a clear-cut issue. Another problem for the government is that the Canadian police must serve a person or representative to start a prosecution, and if there is no one in Canada to serve, well.
So online casinos have provided gambling to Canadian customers for over a decade and not a single one has been charged with an offence in Canada. This does not sit well with the lottery corporations, but unless they can convince the federal government to change the law there is not much they can do about it. The federal government has also rejected appeals for the right to block internet access to these gaming sites.
Ontario’s Online Gaming Market
In 2019 the Ontario Government started the development of an iGaming market for Ontario with the intention to be competitive and at the same time protect customers. By April 2022, the process was completed, and the market was opened for all licensed operators. This part of the gambling market is handled by the AGCO subsidiary iGaming Ontario (IGO).
The legislation aims to improve the gambling situation for Ontario players, and of course to steer tax income from the casino operators to the Ontario government instead of elsewhere. It has turned out to be successful, and to date some 70+ operators have been approved for operations.
Some of the limitations imposed by the regulations are a 19+ year old requirement to gamble, some responsible gaming measures, as well as operators not being allowed to advertise bonuses to players, the same applies to any affiliates providing traffic to the operators.
What does this mean?
As a player in Ontario, you should look out for the iGaming Ontario logo on any site you want to play at, as this signifies that the operator is approved by the IGO. Any gambling on that site should be safe and legal. As we alluded to earlier, it is probably safe to play at other offshore casinos as well, but why take a chance when there are perfectly legal and legitimate sites to play at? Your legal rights are also easier to enforce on an entity with IGO approval, as they will not be wanting to risk their standing with the IGO. It is our recommendation that you play at an iGaming Ontario regulated site.
Until next time.