Here, we rank and review the best Canadian online casinos for real money. We also cover the legal aspects of gambling for real money in Canada.
Canada is one of the top places to play online casino games. The myriad of grey zones in Canada’s gambling legislation ensures that Canadians can effectively play at seemingly any top casino domains they choose. Of course, there is a bit more to it than that. On this page, we will attempt to look at what the online gambling laws in Canada say, and how it can affect you. Let’s begin by asking the most important question first; can you gamble online in Canada?
Can I Gamble Online in Canada?
Let’s not sugar coat this. First and foremost, gambling in Canada is a muddled affair. In fact, the Criminal Code of Canada is quite clear that most forms of gambling are illegal. Where the Criminal Code (of 1985) falls short is in dictating the laws regarding online gambling. The code was created at a time when online gambling didn’t exist. Therefore, there are no laws to govern it. Under the law, then, it is not technically illegal to gamble online, unless one aspect of the existing law is breached, for instance, by engaging in gambling when underage. Casinos which are based in Canada would also violate this code, thus making them illegal.
Most Canadian casinos operate from offshore, and are, therefore, outside of the jurisdiction of the Criminal Code of Canada. Visiting these foreign sites is not illegal. Canada has made no moves to rectify this grey-area, instead opting for an even-handed approach.
There is another loop-hole worth looking at, too. Native American tribes are free (in many ways) to make their own laws regarding certain things. One of those things is gambling. With that in mind, any Canadian casino which operates from within a Native American territory would also fall outside of Canada’s Criminal Code.
Canada’s History with Gambling
Most forms of gambling were considered illegal in Canada until 1970. The main reason for this was organised crime. In the decade which followed, some aspects of gambling became regulated, until, in 1985, each territory and province was given the all-clear to form its own gambling laws. The affidavit was that each establishment would only be legal for people residing in that respective province. National gambling (across the provinces and territories) would remain illegal, and is still illegal to this day under the Criminal Code of Canada, as mentioned above.
An adjustment to the Criminal Code in 2010 made sure that only running an illegal betting or bookmaker service, running a betting house, offering unlicensed lotteries and games of chance or cheating at games of chance to defraud the house were considered serious offences. Some carry prison terms of up to five years, although most include six-month prison sentences and fines of up to $5,000. Even so, these punishments are considerably more lenient than those found south of the border.
A Brief Look at Canada’s Territorial/Provincial Laws
As mentioned, each province and territory has the right to decide gambling laws for itself. However, these are only applicable in the region in which they are created. British Columbia’s gambling laws, therefore, do not apply to residents of Quebec, for instance.
Here is a rough breakdown of the gambling laws of those territories and provinces:
- Alberta: Alberta permits all forms of gambling and turns a blind eye to online activity. Alberta also makes a sizable chunk of its revenue through gambling.
- British Columbia: British Columbia is one of the few regions to run its own gambling sites, offering sports betting, bingo, poker, casino and lottery games. All forms of land-based betting are also legal.
- Manitoba: The Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba regulates gambling in the region. It runs its own online casino but also permits players to wager at offshore sites.
- New Brunswick: All forms of gambling are legal, and the authorities are looking at launching their own online casino shortly.
- Newfoundland and Labrador: Most forms of gambling are legal, save for land-based casinos. First Nations tribes are permitted to run casinos. Offshore casino gaming is tolerated.
- Northwest Territories: All forms of gambling (online and offline) are legal in the Northwest Territories.
- Nova Scotia: Gambling in all forms is legal, even at foreign online casinos.
- Nunavut: This small territory is seemingly open to all forms of gambling, too, despite its tiny population.
- Ontario: All forms of land-based gambling are legal. No specific laws regarding online gambling are in place.
- Prince Edward Island: All forms of brick-and-mortar betting are legal, and offshore sites are tolerated but unregulated.
- Quebec: All forms of land-based gambling are legal, although Quebec has said that it may in future blacklist access to offshore online casinos.
- Saskatchewan: In the province where Canadians gamble the most, all forms of land-based betting are legal. Canadian businesses are prohibited from launching their own online services, but offshore casinos are not illegal.
- Yukon: Sports betting, online casino gaming, lottery and charity gambling events are permitted, though, not fully-fledged land-based establishments. Three-day (time-based gambling events) are legal in the territory.
Online Gambling in Canada
As you can see, each province and territory has its own laws regarding all forms of gambling, not just online casino gaming. The only rules you need to adhere to are those of the province or territory in which you reside.
In all cases (Quebec may change in the future), you are free to wager at offshore and foreign casinos without punishment. This is strictly not legal; however, it falls under the grey-zone mentioned earlier. There are no punishments in place for Canadians who decide to play at such casinos, provided they are not based in the country. The exception to this is if your province or territory runs its own internet casino.
When you decide to play at a Canadian offshore casino, you should make sure that it is licensed out of reputable jurisdiction, and that it is regulated by that authority. Canada does not regulate online casinos on a national level, although again, some provinces/territories may choose to do so for their own sites.
Why Play at a Canadian Online Casino?
There are lots of reasons why playing at Canadian casinos might work out well for you. For starters, Canadians have seemingly every online casino and sportsbook on the net to choose from. This means that they can afford to be picky. Given that there are no laws preventing you from joining online casinos, there is absolutely no reason why you should end up at a rogue, blacklisted or unsafe casino site.
Always choose to play at a UK Gambling Commission, Malta Gaming Authority, or Gibraltar licensed casino. Failing that, Curacao licensed casinos will suffice, although they are less well-regulated as those from the other three.
It is worth pointing out that Canadian casinos may not be licensed in Canada, as these are few and far between, save for a few provincial betting sites. Instead, they are likely to be offshore or foreign sites which cater to Canadians. There are thousands of these out there, so here is what you need to look for to ensure that you’re playing with the very best:
- Bonuses and Promotions: Given that you can play at virtually any casino, you can afford to be picky about choosing a site with top bonuses and promotions. Only play at casinos which offer decent offers, with fair wagering requirements and conditions.
- Games from Many Providers: Again, with such a wide variety of sites to choose from, Canadians can be selective about playing with the very best. Top Canadian offshore casinos will provide players with thousands of games from all manner of today’s top software developers.
- All Forms of Internet Betting: As well as online casino games, Canadian players will be able to access all manner of other gambling options. These include (but aren’t limited to) sports betting, lottery, bingo, keno, poker and other gambling games. In many cases, you can find sites which offer the works all under one roof.
- Support and Assistance: Canadian casinos are often user-friendly. Customer support is usually available via live chat and e-mail. Moreover, you’re going to want to have access to these support options around the clock, whatever the weather. Many Canadian casinos provide support and assistance in French, too, which is handy if you’re living in a French-speaking region.
Finding the Best Canadian Online Casinos
When beginning your search for top Canadian online casinos, there are a few other things which are worth keeping in mind. Make a note of these criteria, and only select casinos which offer these options. This way, you’re sure to be playing at some of the best internet casinos and gambling sites in the business:
- Safe, Licensed and Secure: If you want to play at an online casino which is entirely legal (even without the grey-zone), then you need to sign up at one which is licensed and regulated in your province. These are far and far between. Most Canadians, therefore, opt to play at offshore and foreign sites which are dedicated to Canadian players. With that in mind, ensure that you join one which is licensed out of Malta, the United Kingdom, Gibraltar or Kahnawake. Failing that, some Curacao casinos can fit the bill, too.
- Fair Terms and Conditions: Before claiming any bonus, ensure that it is giving you value for money and reasonable terms. You should look for wagering requirements of 40x or less, high maximum cashout and win caps, and low minimum withdrawal limits.
- Canadian Services: As mentioned, you’re going to want to be sure that the casino can offer gameplay in English and French (if necessary). The site needs to provide bonuses to players in Canada, and those bonuses should be available to claim using the Canadian Dollar (CAD) currency.
- Mobile-Friendly, Instant Play Action: Why download software if you don’t have to? Make sure that your chosen Canadian casino does offer mobile gameplay, but that it does so via an instant play site.
Yours Questions Answered: Our FAQs on Canadian Online Casino Gambling
In most cases, a good FAQ or customer support options at your chosen casino will sort you out with anything you need. However, we’ve answered a few of the most common queries Canadians have about online casino gaming right here.
- How do I pick the best Canadian online casino?
Use the criteria listed above. By ensuring that your chosen Canadian online casino fits the bill in as many areas as possible (as listed above), you can guarantee yourself that you’re playing at a top online casino site.
- Is it illegal for me to play at an online casino in Canada?
Yes and no. Some Canadian provinces have launched their own online casinos. Playing at an offshore site (foreign domains not based in Canada) is neither illegal or legal, and there is no real punishment for doing so. Playing at a Canadian casino from one province while residing in another is illegal, though.
- How old do I have to be to gamble in Canada?
Each province and territory may have its own legal gambling age. However, the national gambling age in Canada is 19. You can gamble at 18 in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec.
- Can I trust offshore casinos?
Again, this depends. If you elect to play at an offshore casino which is licensed out of reputable jurisdiction, that caters to Canadians, offers quality services and is certified as being fair; you can definitely trust foreign casinos. You can always trust sites which are licensed and regulated out of your province, too. Never trust unlicensed, unregulated casinos.
- What deposit/withdrawal methods can I use at Canadian casinos?
Canadians will typically use VISA, MasterCard, Instadebit, Paysafecard, Interac and iDebit to deposit into their account. Most can be used for withdrawals and offer the Canadian dollar currency as an option, too. Other banking methods do exist for Canadians, but the ones above tend to be the most popular.
- Can I claim bonuses at Canadian casinos?
Of course. Any good Canadian casino worth its salt will offer you bonuses and promos. Provincial ones tend to be a touch lighter when it comes to mega-money offers. However, an excellent offshore casino which is well-licensed should provide you with quality deals such as welcome bonuses, redeposit bonuses, free spins, loyalty offers and special monthly promotions.