Is Online Sports Betting Legal in Canada?

Gambling online Canada…. can we do it legally? Since no one has ever been prosecuted for gambling online you could answer yes to this question.

But to understand this question better we need to briefly step back in time. If we exam the history of gambling in Canada and the development of the laws surrounding gambling, it would reveal agonizingly slow progress in this area of the law over the past century.

Going all the way back to 1892, legislation was passed that made all forms of gambling illegal throughout Canada. But as the nation evolved so too did the law. Bingos and raffles were eventually considered as legal forms of gambling, if they were for charitable purposes. Years later lawmakers began to make adjustments to the law which would allow betting on horse racing.

Many decades would pass before the next major change in the law. In 1985 “gambling machines” were made legal. This created a demand for slot machines which resulted in the birth of Canada’s brick and mortar casino industry.

The 1990’s brought along with it the internet, and by the mid 90’s gambling online was proving to be a possibility.  even though it was legally considered a “grey area” here in Canada.


Legal Sports Betting Arrives


Around the same time in the 1990’s, Proline was introduced as part of the Ontario provincial lottery system. Across Canada we have grown accustomed to betting through such provincial lottery systems, whether that would be Proline, Playnow, Sports Select or Mise-O-Jeu.

The simple thought of betting online with an actual sportsbook makes us feel like we would be doing something wrong, or dare we say, illegal.

Perhaps this is in part because each province has done a masterful job of marketing. In almost every mall, grocery, drug and corner store we set foot in, we are face to face with a lottery terminal of some sort. Not to mention the TV commercials they run or the ad space they take out at sporting events.

It seems like it’s our only legal option. But is it? And if not, then is online sports betting legal in Canada?


The Law – Clarity or Confusion?


To find the answer we need to turn to The Criminal Code of Canada and see what it says.

What you would discover there is an old, really old law, threatening prosecution if you are found inside an illegal “betting house” within the borders of Canada.

Since this law predates any form of technology, technically there is no way to apply this law to an online betting site. A website is obviously not a house so therefore you can’t be found inside one. And if that gambling site you are using is legally licensed in another part of the world then it could be claimed that it’s a legal betting site outside the borders of Canada, therefore the law can’t touch you.

This reasoning has proven true. Not one single Canadian has been prosecuted for sports betting online. So you should have nothing to worry about.

Where people run into problems is when they use a sportsbook that’s unlicensed, or licensed but in a country that doesn’t bother enforcing the standards and practices required of a licensee. If you have a problem with such a sportsbook you won’t get much help, so best to stay with a betting site with roots in Canada.


Canadian Betting Sites – How It’s Possible


Depending on where in Canada you live, your provincial lottery may offer an online option to bet on sports. The convenience of such an option is great, but your betting options remain limited. For example, you still can’t bet on single games. This has forced many bettors to open online accounts with an overseas sportsbook.

However there is a Canadian option, and if you have read the review on this site of the Canadian betting site Sports Interaction  ==> HERE <==  then you might be thinking “Aren’t they located in Quebec? And wouldn’t that make them an illegal ‘betting house’ inside Canadian borders?”

It would, except for the fact that they are located within the Kahnawake Mohawk Nation Native Reserve just outside Montreal. This gives them a unique sovereign nation status. This means they can operate under their own legal jurisdiction. Genius.

In 1996, not only were they licensed in Canada for online gambling, but they were able to issue licenses for online gambling to other companies that want to start their own online casino or sports betting sites. Over 100 such licenses have been issued to date, making them one of the most reputable gaming commissions in the world.

All the internet servers that accommodate these 100+ licenses stay within their reserve which allows them to circumvent Canada’s antiquated Criminal Code.


The Final Verdict


The laws in Canada pertaining to gambling are old and out of date. It’s difficult to apply them to the world wide web where online gambling takes place. Until lawmakers catch up with the times and modernize them, prosecution will continue to be difficult and the “gray zone” of online betting will always be there.

Since no one has ever been prosecuted for gambling online to date, feel free to indulge. Just stick with well respected sites like Sports Interaction.

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