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Canadian Gambling Laws

While many nations around the world swing from one extreme or the other regarding the issue of gambling, Canada's citizens and legislators have managed to maintain a fair approach despite the temptation of easy money. The laws are flexible enough to protect the welfare of the public, but they still have to be considered in most cases.

This report will provide an overview of Canada's gambling laws, as well as the various gaming forms. To give this report a deeper understanding and differentiate it from others of a similar type, I will also add statistics and factsoids.

Keep in mind that I am not a lawyer. Even the best-intentioned information may become obsolete quickly as the legal landscape for gambling in any country can change rapidly. It is a good idea to contact an attorney before you embark on the journey of becoming a Canadian high-roller gambler.

Illegal gambling in Canada

Illegal gambling in Canada was almost entirely the province of organized crime many decades ago. These criminals had many opportunities to make a living from illegal gambling in Canada, as most forms of gambling were banned in the country before 1970.

This began to change slowly in 1970 when certain previously illegal gaming activities were made available to the common citizen. A major step forward was made in 1985 when territories and provinces were granted the authority to supervise activities like lotteries, charitable gaming and slots.

Organised Crime

Modern organized crime still relies on illegal gambling for their primary revenue source, but a new generation of tech-savvy crooks has adopted the practice. These unscrupulous people bilk customers and rig sporting events to avoid paying their fair share in taxes. This has created a greater burden on city and provincial law enforcement as well as national organizations like the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Criminal Courts

The Criminal Code of Canada covers a variety of illegal gambling offenses. Here are the most prevalent:

  • Section 201 – There are many offenses that can be committed under this section, but the most prevalent is keeping a gaming or betting house.
  • Section 202 – Illegal betting, book-making and pool-selling.
  • Section 206 – Offenses relating to lotteries or other games of chance.
  • Section 209 - Cheating in games of chance with an intent to defraud the customer or the house.

The above offenses were amended in the Criminal Code in July 2010 to be considered "serious offences." The code or act of Parliament makes it indictable. The federal government does not need to amend the existing legislation to bring the matter before the Parliament.

Some serious crimes in Canada can lead to a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment, but gambling-related offenses are often much less severe. The majority of offenses are restricted to two years imprisonment. However, an offense like knowingly keeping a common gambling house is only allowed to six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Gambling Laws Relaxed

Canada's gambling laws are more relaxed than those of their neighbour to the south. In keeping with Canada's desire to be more progressive, they reserve long periods of imprisonment for crimes like murder and rape.

A form of gambling that is not licensed or managed by the government, either on a provincial or federal level, is generally illegal within Canada.

This applies not only to large gaming operations like land-based casinos but also to charitable options like bingo and raffles.

Online gambling is often considered a gray area. While Canadian law does not prohibit online gambling, it does require that a service be licensed or owned in order for it to be legal. This hasn’t stopped over 1000 unlicensed offshore websites from offering their services for Canadian citizens.

British Columbia

British Columbia took down Delaware-based Starnet Communications International, and they were forced to forfeit nearly $4 million in revenue. Another example was in 2013, when Ontario authorities raided Platinum Sports Book and charged 19 people. They also seized over $2 million of funds.

There are still many safe online gambling websites for Canadian players, despite this. Casumo is the most trusted Canadian site. Visit them today if you haven’t!