Social Gambling In Canada: A Quick Guide
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Social Gambling In Canada: A Quick Guide

Social Gambling In Canada: A Quick Guide

Social gambling is legal in Canada and is available in many different forms. What makes casual, or legal gambling in Canada so interesting is that each province and territory governs gambling in their specific jurisdiction rather than through the federal government. This means that gambling guidelines and offerings are different from one province or territory to the next. However, there are also regional gambling options and online options. To fully understand what you can and cannot do as a casual gambler in Canada, we have to first take a close look at the laws related to the topic. In this article, we will explore gambling laws in Canada and share with you details on what each province and territory provides physically and online for gamblers within the country.


Canadian Gambling Laws

We have already indicated that gambling laws differ from province and territory to other provinces and territories. Here’s what makes it a bit confusing. Gambling laws are found in the Canadian Criminal Code. That makes them enforceable by the federal government but they are enacted at the provincial or territorial level. Although this makes the criminal code laws the same across the country, specific gambling laws differ depending on where in Canada you live and gamble. One similarity between the provinces and territories is how gambling revenue is used. The revenue that is produced from all forms of gambling, which includes but is not limited to, lotteries, casinos, and sports wagering is put back into the communities through various programs benefiting Canadian citizens.


A Closer Look At Canadian Gambling Laws

Here is a quick review of the Criminal Codes that relate specifically to gambling in Canada. But first, let’s discuss Bill C290. This Bill was supposed to amend the Canadian Criminal Code to permit single sports game bets. Currently, in Canada, parlay bets are only allowed on sporting events at local sportsbooks. A parlay wager is placed on the outcome of more than one sporting event and to place what is considered a “legal parlay wager” you have to include a minimum of three events within that wager. Bill C290 went as high up the flag pole as the House of Commons but was turned down. If the Bill had passed and gotten signed into law, gamblers would have had the option of placing straight bets on single games and won or lost on the outcome of that single event.


Criminal Code 201

This code states that anyone who has or operates a gambling facility is guilty of a criminal offense and can face jail time of up to two years. The same penalty is in place for anyone found in an illegal gambling house or who happens to lease, protect or permit a facility to be operated as an illegal gambling house.


Criminal Code 202

This code states that anyone caught placing a bet, accepting a bet, or selling a pool bet could be the recipient of legal action and may end up with up to two years in jail. The focus of this specific code is illegal bookmakers, illegal betting, and pool selling. What about that office SuperBowl pool? Technically, it is illegal.


Criminal Code 206

This code is aimed squarely at those individuals who either fraud the lottery system or scheme games of chance. The punishments for doing so and getting caught are spelled out in this code as are many different lottery scheme scenarios that are all considered illegal with jail time as the deterrent.


Criminal Code 209

This code simply states that anyone caught cheating or has the intent to defraud anyone or any gambling service will receive up to two years in jail as punishment. 


Is Gambling Legal In Canada?

Well, since we got all the hard facts out first, it most certainly sounds like Canada is a rather strict place to attempt to gamble. However, it is quite the opposite. Although many guidelines exist within the Canadian Criminal Code, there are a lot of casinos, bingo halls, lotteries, and online betting options available to the average Canadian gambler. It was back in 1969 when the federal government made changes to the Criminal Code to permit lotteries to be used to assist with funding the 1976 Olympic Games planned to take place in Montreal, Quebec. It was also at that time when provinces and territories received the authority to permit additional legal gambling entertainment venues. With that being said, brick-and-mortar gambling casinos and bingo halls are still limited to major urban centers. However, the provincial and territorial governments have licensed many non-profit organizations for bingo games and in most parts of the country you can pick up daily lottery tickets at venues including gas stations, pharmacies, and grocery stores. 

Online gambling options also exist within the country and follow a simple rule. If the online gaming site is based within Canada and has a license to operate within Canada, it is considered to be a legal gaming site. The majority of these are operated by the provincial or territorial government where they are based. What this means is that offshore online gaming sites are technically illegal for Canadians to use as they are 1) not based within Canada and, 2) not licensed to operate in Canada. However, Canadian gamblers flock to these sites because they offer greater game selection, accept Canadian currency, and have several attractive incentive programs. Oh, and enforcement of gambling laws in Canada is light, so offshore online sites see a lot of Canadian gamblers. It is interesting to note that as easy as it is for a Canadian gambler to set up an online account to gamble through an offshore gaming site, there is still a fair deal of risk involved in participating in such a site. Many gamblers have lost deposited money when an offshore gaming site goes dark.


What Are The Legal Forms Of Gambling In Canada?

As has been already stated, individual provinces and territories in Canada dictate what gambling operations are allowed and determine how the revenue collected from them is used. This makes for an interesting cross-section of gambling across the country as what is permitted in one jurisdiction may differ in another. This also impacts the services that are funded through gambling as they also differ from one province and territory to another. To make it a little easier to understand, here is a breakdown of what gambling opportunities exist in each province or territory.


Casinos, Lottery, and Sports Betting

- Alberta

- Ontario

- Prince Edward Island

- Nova Scotia

- Yukon


Casinos, Lottery, Horse Racing, Sports Betting

- British Columbia

- New Brunswick

- Quebec

- Saskatchewan


Casinos, Sports Betting

- Manitoba


Lottery, Sports Betting

- Newfoundland and Labrador

- Northwest Territories

- Nunavut


A Closer Look A The Legal Forms Of Gambling In Canada

Now that you have a better picture of what forms of legal, social gambling exists between the provinces and territories, let’s take a closer look at the distribution of gambling game options across the country.



There are several brick-and-mortar casino operations scattered across Canada, except for Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Newfoundland, and Labrador. The revenue that is generated in these casinos comes from the casino licenses and associated fees and is typically used to fund a variety of government-assisted programs. Examples of these programs would include the free healthcare system and additional local provincial programs. As for what you will see inside any of these government-licensed casinos, expect to have access to traditional table games including Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, Baccarat, Video Poker, and Slot Machines.



Poker tables can be found in over 50 different brick-and-mortar locations across Canada. Plus, online poker is available for Canadians to play through various websites including offshore operations. As there is no clear law restricting online poker activity, Canadian gamblers spend a lot of time and money playing at online sites. As for the favorite variation of the game, Canadian gamblers are quite fond of Texas Hold ‘Em Poker making it the game most played in the Great White North.



Provinces and territories utilize lotteries to fund local community programs. Lotteries are common across the country and range in formats from scratch ’n’ win tickets to other games of chance that require choosing numbers to win cash prizes. Sports betting is attached to lotteries although the offerings differ between jurisdictions.


Sports Betting

Each province and territory permit sports betting and there is one main sports betting service currently in operation in Canada. However, it goes by one of four different names depending on where you are in the country. The service is known as Sports Action, Pari Sportif, Pro-Line, and Sports-Select. Tickets can be purchased at your preferred lottery center and online wagers are also accepted in a few provinces. Lottery centers exist in shopping mall kiosks, at gas stations, grocery stores, pharmacies, and countless other retail locations that have been licensed to provide lottery services.


Horse Racing

There are live horse race tracks located in a handful of large urban centers in Canada including Toronto, Vancouver, and Edmonton. On-track and off-track wagering are the commonly accepted types of horse race betting formats. 


Legal Online Gambling Options In Canada

As we have pointed out above, offshore online gaming sites are popular in Canada but are technically considered illegal as they are not licensed to operate within Canada. But that doesn’t seem to be an issue with many Canadian bettors. According to the Canadian Gaming Association, they estimate about $4-billion a year goes to offshore gambling sites direct from Canadian gamblers. With this in mind, there are online gaming options regulated by most provincial and territorial governments in Canada. The legal (licensed) online options include the following:

- Online Casinos

- Online Horse Racing

- Online Lotteries

- Online Poker

- Online Sports Betting


The Regulatory Bodies In Canada

It has been noted several times in this article that although the federal government in Canada enforces gambling laws, the actual laws are left up to each province and territory to determine. They also regulate what forms of gambling will be permitted and provide the licensing of individual gambling venues. Here is a list of the regulators.


Alcohol & Gaming Commission of Ontario

Horse racing and the gaming industry are controlled by the AGCO within the Province of Ontario.


Alberta Gaming & Liquor Commission

The AGLC is responsible for regulating the gaming industry within the Province of Alberta. Licensed charities are used to return revenues that are generated by gaming activities that take place in Alberta.


Atlantic Lottery Corporation

This regulatory body is owned and operated by four Atlantic provinces - New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. They operate the lotteries games in the Atlantic provinces along with casinos located on Prince Edward Island.


British Columbia Gaming Policy-Enforcement Branch 

In British Columbia, this is the branch that regulates lotteries, casino games, horse race betting, and online gambling. Services such as healthcare are funded by revenues generated from gambling in this province.


Department of Community Services

The Yukon Territory licenses charity gaming through this branch.


Kahnawake Gaming Commission

This group license and regulates interactive gaming, terrestrial poker rooms, and raffles in the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory of Quebec. As the Kahnawake Territory is considered a sovereign nation, it is not under Canadian authority and can issue licenses for gaming activity in a manner that differs from the Province of Quebec.


Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba

The LGA is responsible for licensing gaming employees, products, and operations throughout the Province of Manitoba.


Loto Quebec

Loto Quebec oversees all games of chance activity in the Province of Quebec. It is interesting to note that this regulator body was originally established in 1969 and used to assist with raising lottery funding for the 1972 Olympic Games in Montreal.


New Brunswick Lotteries & Gaming Corporation

In addition to regulating all lotteries within the Province of New Brunswick, this corporation is also responsible for the development of responsible gaming policies.


Northwest Territories Municipal & Community Affairs

This is the regulatory body that governs the lottery system in the Northwest Territories.


Nova Scotia Provincial Lotteries & Casino Corporation

Games of chance and lotteries are regulated by this corporation that also ensures that all profits from these activities go back into communities to fund vital programs.


Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation

Casinos, horse racing, and lotteries are regulated within the Province of Ontario by this corporation.


Quebec Alcohol, Racing, and Gaming Commission

This board oversees casinos, amusement machines, and horse racing within the Province of Quebec.


Saskatchewan Liquor & Gaming Commission

Gaming operations ranging from casinos to horse racing and charitable gaming are all regulated in Saskatchewan by the SLGC.


Service NL

In Newfoundland and Labrador, this regulatory body oversees charitable and non-profit organizations' fundraising events that use lottery systems.


What Is The Legal Gambling Age In Canada?

Oddly enough, the minimum legal gambling age differs from province and territory to other provinces and territories. The legal drinking age is what is used as the benchmark for determining the legal gambling age. For most of Canada, that is 19 years of age. The only exceptions are the provinces of Alberta, Quebec, and Manitoba where the legal drinking age (and gambling age) is 18.


In Canada, There Are Indian (Tribal) Casinos

The history of Indian (Tribal) Casinos in Canada can be traced back to the early 1990s when the first such facility opened in Toronto. That led to the establishment of the First Nations Gaming Act in 1995 which permitted the regulation of Indian (Tribal) casinos in the province of Saskatchewan. A year later, four more casinos had been established. Today, there are approximately twenty Indian (Tribal) casinos in Canada. They are currently located in six different provinces and profits that come from them and other charitable casinos are returned to public funds.


Illegal Gambling In Canada

Let’s forget about offshore online gaming sites for a moment. That’s because illegal gambling has had a long history in Canada and some of these operations are still active. Just about every major city in Canada is home to several underground illegal gambling houses which normally feature illegal gaming machines and table games. It is common for these illegal gambling operations to be associated with various forms of organized crime and this is why provincial government agencies and local task forces continue to work to shut these facilities down. Raids in Toronto in 2015 revealed a total of 33 illegal gambling houses and one raid produced over $200,000. Although raids are conducted in every major center in Canada, the majority of the underground gambling houses appear to be based in and around Toronto.


Gambling Tax Laws In Canada

Here’s something you may not know but probably wondered about. You’ve seen photos online, in the paper, and on TV of big jackpot winners with giant lottery checks. But you’ve probably thought that the total prize is subject to Canadian tax laws. After all, if you’ve been to Las Vegas, Reno, or Atlantic City and hit it big at the poker table, you know they take a chunk out of your winnings before you leave the casino. Well, in Canada, it’s a lot different from that. The simple answer is that anything you win, regardless of amount, is totally tax-free. If you win a $10-million lottery, all $10-million of that will go into your bank account. However, there are some exceptions. First off, if you play the lotteries and casinos regularly and earn a living doing this, you will have to claim your winnings at income tax time. Second, if you are a Canadian citizen working in the United States, you can claim your gambling losses on your Canadian taxes but to see a refund, your losses cannot exceed your winnings according to the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency). If you are nothing more than a casual gambler who wins a bit here and a bit there plus the odd big jackpot, don’t worry. The CRA isn’t concerned about your winnings and will essentially turn a blind eye to you if you don’t claim a cent of it.


In Conclusion

Social gambling is alive and well in Canada. With the provinces and territories doing all the hard work, you are sure to find many different outlets to satisfy your craving for some Blackjack, horse racing, or lottery activities. Not only do you have the choice of various brick-and-mortar casinos, but you can also purchase your tickets at numerous lottery centers across the country in such places as your local gas station or grocery store. Or, if you prefer to gamble in the comfort of your home, most provinces offer online gaming activities. These are legally licensed to operate within Canada and are less risky than offshore gaming sites. And provided that you are not making gambling a career, you can keep every penny you win without having to be concerned about the Tax Man getting a piece of your winnings. Yes, in some cases, gaming activity is heavily regulated in Canada, but at the same time, many regulations are not enforced. 

For a casual gambler, that should have little impact on your betting activity. In general, Canada welcomes gaming activities of all kinds and generates a lot of revenue through gambling that gets put back into communities for various programs intended to help residents. So, if it makes you feel any better, if you happen to be a Canadian casual gambler who just doesn’t seem to have much luck betting on horse racing or sporting events, keep in mind that in some way your losses are helping create or support programs in your community that you, your family and your neighbors are going to benefit from. Sure, winning a big jackpot would feel much better, but sometimes it is important to remember why gambling activities exist in today’s world and since they are such good sources of revenue, it only makes sense that the profits go back to the people who supplied them in one way or another.


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