Canada is home to a variety of casino-style gambling options. Casinos are present in nearly every province and territory. In some cases, there are two dozen or more casinos in a given province. Online gambling in Canada is also popular. Most of the provinces provide their own online casinos, with a few also offering their own online poker rooms. In addition, other sites that don’t hold a license in Canada serve Canadian players.
Read on for an overview of online gambling and online casinos in Canada, including what games are currently available and what may be available in the near future. Let’s start with the most basic question about Canadian online casinos.
Is online gambling legal in Canada?
Yes and no. Canadian law explicitly forbids operating an online casino within Canada without a license. The country’s criminal code does authorize each of the provinces to regulate gambling as they see fit. Some provinces do allow fully licensed and legal forms of online gambling, including online casino games, in a limited capacity.
Meanwhile, Canada is different from the United States with regard to how it handles offshore gambling sites. In the US, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 prohibits banks and financial transaction providers from facilitating the movement of Americans’ funds to and from the sites. In Canada, there is no federal law like the UIGEA. Many online gambling sites around the world accept Canadian players even though the sites don’t hold a license to operate in Canada.
Canada is also a gray market for daily fantasy sports. In this respect, Canada is a lot like a number of US states that have not explicitly legalized or prohibited DFS.
Additionally, many casino sites that employ a “sweepstakes” model using virtual currency accept players from Canada. Thus online casinos like Chumba Casino, LuckyLand Slots and Funzpoints all accept Canadian players, as does the online poker site Global Poker. However, such sites usually exclude players from Quebec, which has more restrictive laws regarding sweepstakes.
Are online casinos legal in Canada?
Yes, there are legal online casinos located in Canada, but individual provinces must license them. In 2004, British Columbia became the first province to launch a legal online gambling site in Canada, PlayNow. Today PlayNow serves both BC residents and those in Manitoba thanks to a partnership between the two provinces.
Quebec followed in 2010 when its lottery corporation, Loto-Québec, launched its online casino Espacejeux. A couple of years later, Loto-Québec additionally launched another site called Mise-o-jeu, specializing in parlay-based sports betting. In 2015, Ontario also launched an online gambling site, PlayOLG. Then in 2020, Alberta launched PlayAlberta.
These online casinos require players to be physically located within the province in order to play real money casino games. They employ geolocation technology to ensure players are within the province’s borders, much like US states where online gambling is legal.
Can you play online poker in Canada?
Yes, you can. Just as offshore online casinos serve Canadians, so, too, do online poker rooms located outside of the country accept players from Canada. The situation resembles what was the case in the US prior to the UIGEA and Black Friday (in 2011) when American players were able to play on non-US “global” sites.
The most popular online poker sites in Canada at present are:
- the iPoker network
There are a couple of “local” Canadian online poker sites as well that individual provinces license and operate:
- OK Poker
- PlayNow Poker
OK Poker is available to players in Quebec. The site first launched as part of the Espacejeux online casino in 2010. In 2020, the poker site upgraded and rebranded as OK Poker.
PlayNow Poker launched in 2011 in British Columbia. The British Columbia Lottery Corp. partnered as well with Loto-Quebec to allow players in both BC and Quebec to play against one another in a shared player pool. The next year when Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries also partnered with the BCLC, the PlayNow Poker site began accepting players from both BC and Manitoba.
Thus in Canada, there are two distinct online poker sites serving players in three provinces. However, all three sites share the player pool. IGT serves as the software provider for both OK Poker and PlayNow Poker.
How online gambling works in Canada
Canada’s federal Criminal Code imposes a countrywide prohibition on all types of gambling with the exception of pari-mutuel wagering on horse races. However, in 1985, an amendment allowed provinces and territories each to authorize and regulate gambling within their jurisdictions, should they wish to do so. As a result, each jurisdiction has its own gambling authority that regulates and licenses all gambling within its borders. That includes land-based casino gambling and online gambling. Therefore, what is legal varies from province to province. Here are the options each province has for legal gambling and, more specifically, online gambling:
|Province||Lottery||Online Poker||Online Casinos||Casinos||Racetracks||OTBs|
|Alberta||Western Canada Lottery Corp.||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|British Columbia||British Columbia Lottery Corp.||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Manitoba||Western Canada Lottery Corp.||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|New Brunswick||Atlantic Lottery Corp.||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||Atlantic Lottery Corp.||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Nova Scotia||Atlantic Lottery Corp.||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Ontario||Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Prince Edward Island||Atlantic Lottery Corp.||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Saskatchewan||Western Canada Lottery Corp.||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Offshore sites are generally regulated by entities based in various locations throughout the world. One of the most active online gaming regulatory bodies in Canada is the Kahnawake Gaming Commission in Kahnawake Mohawk Territory in southern Quebec. Thus from within Canada (though not subject to Canadian law), the KGC licenses online casinos and poker sites located in other countries that then, in turn, serve Canadian players.
Worth adding is the fact that the ban on single-game sports betting in Canada is about to end. Federal bill C-218, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, has passed both houses of Parliament and received royal assent.
What’s next for Ontario online gambling?
Ontario is Canada’s largest and most populous province. It is also one of the provinces that offer legal, government-run online gambling, having launched its own PlayOLG site in 2015. However, online gambling in Ontario might be in for a big change soon. That’s because the Ontario provincial government has recently considered the possibility of allowing other operators to offer online gambling in the province, as well.
In late 2020, Ontario’s government indicated it would introduce legislation to end the provincial lottery’s monopoly on online casino games. By the spring, even Torstar Corp., the publisher of The Toronto Star, had announced a plan to launch its own online casino pending the law changing and authorization from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.
In mid-March 2021, Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey provided an update regarding the legal framework and how revenue sharing would work with the new private sector businesses. According to Downey, all will be “finalized by the fall of this year.” It is likely Ontario will wait for sports legislation to pass first before moving forward with its own provincial legislation to open online casinos to outside operators.
Who regulates gambling in Canada?
Canadian federal law only authorizes pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing, otherwise yielding to the provinces’ jurisdiction over other types of gambling. In other words, much as each state in the US has its own regulatory body that oversees gambling, each province in Canada has its own commission that regulates gambling in the province.
Usually, these provincial gambling commissions also oversee the lottery, horse racing and/or alcohol and tobacco. These regulatory bodies are responsible for reviewing applications and issuing licenses to gambling providers. They also ensure the integrity of games and casino operations in order to protect the players. The three Canadian territories each have their own government department or branch that oversees gambling within their borders.
Additionally, Canada is home to many First Nations tribes. The First Nations regulate casinos and other forms of gambling within their jurisdictions. We’ll talk more about the First Nations of Canada later on.
Legal gambling in Canada
Gambling is legal across Canada, although on a federal level only pari-mutuel wagering on horse races is permitted. Otherwise, the provinces and territories authorize what types of gambling are legal within their respective borders.
Every province except Newfoundland and Labrador has at least one retail casino. Others, like Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, have two dozen or more. All of the provinces have legal wagering on horse races and off-track betting. They also all offer lotteries and other forms of charitable gaming. Some additionally have province-run online casinos and online poker rooms.
How old do I have to be to gamble in Canada?
The age requirements for gambling differ depending on the province. In most provinces, the minimum age to gamble in casinos is 19 years old. Three provinces allow those 18 and older to gamble: Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec.
Responsible gambling in Canada
There are numerous resources and agencies available throughout Canada that promote responsible gambling and work to prevent and treat problem gambling.
The Responsible Gambling Council is a national nonprofit organization based in Toronto that offers a variety of resources designed to inform the public about problem gambling as well as connect those in need with treatment centers and counselors.
Each province also endeavors to promote responsible gambling in different ways. For example, in Ontario, the OLG sponsors a website called PlaySmart, which provides educational tools and support for problem gambling. PlaySmart Centres operated by the Responsible Gambling Council are located in every OLG gaming site, including casinos.
Types of gambling available in Ontario
In Ontario, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. is responsible for a variety of types of legal gambling available in the province. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario regulates casino gambling.
Slot machines, including progressive jackpot slots, are the most popular casino game in Ontario. Table games include baccarat, blackjack, craps, and roulette. Poker games like Pai Gow, Let It Ride, Three Card Poker and the like are available, as well. Some casinos also have traditional poker rooms where players compete against one another rather than against a dealer. Many casinos additionally offer a large number of electronic table games.
Video lottery terminals are also quite popular throughout Ontario. VLTs play like slots and offer many similar games, including video poker, but they aren’t slots in the true sense. VLTs are available at many of the more than 10,000 lottery retailers throughout the province.
Lotteries are another type of gambling available in Ontario, and residents can play either national lotteries or provincial ones. National lotteries like the Lotto 6/49, Lotto Max and the Daily Grand are favorites throughout Canada. But in Ontario, residents also like to play draw games like Ontario 49 or other instant-win games only available in the province.
There is also legal sports betting in Ontario, albeit of the limited, parlay-style variety. Bettors in Ontario can use the Pro-Line sports betting service to wager on three to six games. Bettors need to visit an OLG retailer in order to place their wagers. Some provinces currently allow this form of sports betting online, but Ontario does not.
Horse betting and more
Those in Ontario can bet on horse races at multiple tracks throughout the province. They can also place wagers at off-track betting parlors. Ontario additionally offers various forms of charitable gaming, including raffles and bingo.
Are there casinos in Ontario?
Oh yes, there are a lot of them located throughout the province. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. operates many of the province’s casinos in addition to other private operators. Patrons must be 19 or older to visit and play games at Ontario casinos.
When the Pickering Casino Resort opens in late 2021, there will be 28 casinos operating in the province. Among these are commercial and charity casinos, as well as three First Nations casinos: Casino Rama, Golden Eagle Charitable Casino & Gaming Centre and Great Blue Heron Casino. The largest casinos in Ontario are located in the Greater Toronto Area and around Niagara Falls. Here are the top five casinos in the province in terms of size:
Fallsview Casino Resort
This sprawling, picturesque casino resort affords a spectacular view of Niagara Falls while also featuring more than 200,000 square feet of gambling space. The casino has over 3,000 slots and 130 table games including poker, with Fallsview having frequently hosted major poker tournaments.
- Address: 6380 Fallsview Blvd., Niagara Falls, Ontario
- Phone: 888-325-5788
- Owner: Ontario Lottery and Gaming
- Operator: Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment
- Live poker: Yes
This popular casino is attached to the Woodbine Racetrack, host of the annual Queen’s Plate race. Casino Woodbine features over 3,500 slots and 100 table games plus a number of electronic tables, though it does not have a live poker room.
- Address: 555 Rexdale Blvd., Toronto, Ontario
- Phone: 416-675-1101
- Owner: Woodbine Entertainment Group
- Operator: Great Canadian Gaming Corp.
- Live poker: No
Located near Orilla, Ontario, about an hour and a half from Toronto, Casino Rama is the country’s largest First Nation casino, with 2,200 slots and 67 table games, including a 10-table poker room.
- Address: 5899 Rama Road, Rama, Ontario
- Phone: 800-832-7529
- Owners: Chippewas of Rama First Nation, Ontario Lottery and Gaming
- Operator: Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Limited
- Live poker: Yes
Casino Niagara is located just down the road from Fallsview Casino, allowing patrons to shuttle between the two, if desired. The casino features 1,300 slots, 40 table games and a 26-table poker room.
- Address: 5705 Falls Ave., Niagara Falls, Ontario
- Phone: 888-325-5788
- Owner: Ontario Lottery and Gaming
- Operator: Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment
- Live poker: Yes
Elements Casino Mohawk
Elements Casino Mohawk is part of Woodbine Mohawk Park racetrack in Milton, about 45 minutes from Toronto. The casino features more than 1,500 slots and 60 table games, though no live poker.
- Address: 9430 Guelph Line, Milton, Ontario
- Phone: 800-732-2230
- Owners: Great Canadian Gaming Corp., Clairvest Group, Woodbine Entertainment Group
- Operator: Great Canadian Gaming Corp.
- Live poker: No
Types of games at Ontario casinos
Ontario casinos provide a variety of games for patrons. These options essentially include almost all of the same types of games you would expect to find in a US casino. Games at Ontario casinos include:
- Progressive slots
- Other table games (Caribbean Stud, Casino War, Pai Gow Poker, Let It Ride, Ultimate Texas Hold’em)
- Electronic table games
Some Ontario casinos are OLG retailers, as well, meaning they sell lottery tickets and also provide parlay sports betting via Pro-Line.
Tribal casinos in Canada
There are 18 tribal casinos located on First Nation reserves throughout Canada. Saskatchewan has the most with seven, followed by Alberta (five), Ontario (three), Manitoba (two) and British Columbia (one). The First Nations also operate smaller gaming centers on their reserves that offer bingo and other games. There are tribal poker rooms, as well.
Following the passage of the First Nations Gaming Act in 1995, lawmakers ruled that while the First Nations could open gambling facilities, the provinces still had the authority to impose regulations on what types of games they could provide. The situation resembles the US where tribes and states must negotiate compacts to determine what games tribal casinos can offer. However, unlike in the US where the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a division of the Department of the Interior, also must approve tribal compacts, there is no federal oversight of the tribal casinos in Canada.
First Nation casinos offer slots, table games, poker, keno, bingo and other games. Many are modest in size, but some are quite large. For example, Casino Rama in Ontario is the largest tribal casino in the country, covering nearly 200,000 square feet. Most First Nation casinos are more like Ontario’s other two tribal casinos: the Great Blue Heron Casino in Port Perry or the much smaller Golden Eagle Charitable Casino & Gaming Centre in Kenora.
The issue of Canada’s tribal nations’ rights has frequently arisen whenever gambling legislation is under consideration. The current discussions of a new federal sports betting bill have provided an example, with the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, in particular, having argued the legislation “fails to properly regard the rights and interests of indigenous peoples.”
As is true in the United States where gambling expansion often necessarily involves tribes’ input, the situation is similar in Canada with regard to the First Nations.
History of gambling in Canada
Canada permits many types of gambling, with individual provinces, territories and First Nations reserves enjoying regulatory authority over nearly all gambling within their jurisdictions. From a legal perspective, key moments in the history of Canadian gambling stand out as having helped shape the current gambling landscape.
- 1969: Canada updates the Criminal Code to give both federal and provincial authorization to conduct lotteries. The update also expands allowable forms of charitable gambling by the provinces, including slot machines.
- 1982: Another amendment to the Criminal Code permits pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing, including “inter-track” betting (thereby setting the stage for OTB parlors).
- 1985: A new Criminal Code amendment takes lotteries out of the federal government’s hands entirely and gives them to the provinces. More notably, that same change gives the provinces regulatory authority over other casino games, including slots and video lottery terminals. From this point forward, the provinces established their own regulatory bodies to authorize casinos and other forms of gambling within their borders.
- 1995: The First Nations Gaming Act is signed into law, permitting Canada’s indigenous people to operate casinos on their reserves following the model of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 in the US.
- 2004: British Columbia becomes the first province to legalize certain forms of online gambling, starting with lottery-style games only on its new PlayNow website. Later, in 2010, the BCLC adds online casino games.