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Online Gambling in Canada in 2024

Explore the complex landscape of online gambling in Canada, where provinces set their own rules, and offshore gaming thrives alongside regulated markets. Learn about the regulatory framework, popular games, and the impact of offshore platforms.
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Branimir Ivanov | Senior News Contributor

Updated: May 15, 2024

Understanding the Canadian Digital Casino Gaming Landscape

Online gambling is thriving in Canada after several years of major developments. Now, almost 70% of residents engage in some form of real money wagering each year, whether in the form of sports betting or playing online casino games. 

According to Scenta, the combined market including both in-person and digital gambling has a value in excess of $14 billion, while the average adult spends an estimated $500 participating in gambling activities. In Ontario alone, the yearling industry achieved two new wagering and revenue records in Q4 2023 of $17.2 billion and $658 million respectively, indicating just how lucrative and economically impactful this emerging industry is. 

Unlike the iGaming scene in the USA, Europe or across the Asian markets, Canada’s gambling landscape can be confusing. Each province sets its own rules, and there’s also the question of gray market, or offshore gaming, in which residents can participate in online gambling in Canada on licensed platforms that aren’t located within the country. 

Naturally, with such a complex framework surrounding casino gaming et al, it's imperative that players are as informed as possible in order to access secure and fair gaming options. Stakeholders, too, should make it a priority to gain knowledge of the digital casino gaming landscape as it is essential for both regulatory compliance and the promotion of responsible gambling practices — all of which will drive sustainable growth. 

 

Getting to Grips with the Regulatory Framework

As mentioned above, the regulatory framework that governs all iGaming activities in Canada is complex, with a combination of provincial and federal regulations. Getting to grips with the distinction between the two is an essential step in understanding the landscape of playing casino games online in the country. 

Provincial governments have significant authority over digital gaming activities within their respective jurisdictions, which extends to the licensing and regulation of any gambling operators who wish to launch in the province. Each individual province has its own regulatory body to oversee iGaming, such as the British Columbia Lottery Corporation, as well as consortiums and organizations that set and maintain best practices, like Ontario’s newly formed iGO. 

The federal government of Canada, meanwhile, plays a larger role in the regulation of the industry as a whole, particularly concerning any aspects that could relate to criminal law and communications. The Criminal Code of Canada sets out the legality of various digital activities, including online gaming, but it nevertheless leaves room for interpretation to facilitate each province to regulate the industry within its borders. 

 

Provincial Legislation

The legislation that governs online casino gaming will vary from province to province in the country, with some territories embracing the industry and establishing regulated markets, while others have no specific laws that address such activities. 

Ontario, for example, launched its regulated iGaming market in April 2022, making it possible for approved international gaming operators to launch and offer their services to residents. In contrast, the Atlantic Provinces have adopted a collective approach to regulating the industry, while British Columbia, Quebec and — in early 2024 — Nova Scotia have launched “in-house” iGaming platforms. 

 

What is Offshore Gambling? 

The fact that elements of the CCC are open to interpretation for provinces has also given rise to the so-called “gray market” of offshore gambling platforms. The term effectively refers to a market for services offered by operators that are located outside the country, often in jurisdictions with more widespread regulations. Even with the increased presence of regulated iGaming options now available in the country, offshore gambling remains a fundamental aspect of the ecosystem but it too, has a complex status. 

At present, the CCC doesn't prohibit the operation of international gaming platforms within the country, although it does prohibit unlicensed activities. Therefore, Canadians can access and use offshore websites provided they are fully licensed and compliant with the stringent regulations set by governing bodies such as the Malta Gaming Authority or Curacao eGaming. 

Moreover, due to their international presence, many offshore platforms offer more attractive bonuses and promotions as well as a wider array of gaming experiences, which can make them more appealing for residents than locally-regulated platforms. 

 

“Each province sets its own rules, and there’s also the question of gray market, or offshore gaming, in which residents can participate in online gambling in Canada on licensed platforms that aren’t located within the country.”

 

Digital Casino Gaming in Canada

Speaking of games, despite iGaming still being very much an emerging market, Canadian gamers have developed diverse preferences for real money activities, with some casino games enjoying widespread popularity across the country. 

Slot games are easily the most popular casino game and iGaming activity in Canada, with their variety and potential for large jackpots attracting a broad demographic of gamers. The slots vertical is constantly innovating and currently encompasses classic 3 and 5-reel games, video slots, progressive jackpot experiences, and hot drop games. Meanwhile, the vast range of themes and features available in the segment ensure they’re well-received by Canadian players. 

Of course, classic table and card games such as blackjack, roulette and poker also remain popular with players throughout the country, particularly those variants that deliver immersive gaming experiences. The live dealer segment, with its focus on interactive gameplay and real-time wagering opportunities, has become increasingly popular, especially since it can deliver an authentic casino atmosphere from the comfort of players’ homes. 

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