Is Canadian online gambling getting regulated?


Online gambling is big business. Canadians spend vast sums annually betting or gambling over the Internet, often dealing with companies located offshore. Theoretically gambling falls under the provinces’ jurisdiction, and this online activity is depriving provincial governments of revenues, more importantly, these overseas gambling operators are unregulated by Canadian law.  

Regulation could help ensure that odds are fair for players, payouts are done properly, and issues of gambling addictions are addressed. In this province, the crown corporation Loto-Quebec has an online presence and follows government guidelines. Most other provinces have a similar crown corporation with a similar online presence. But they all have to compete with offshore operators which remain unregulated by Canadian laws.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is among those calling for modernization of gambling laws, making it legal for Canadian-based gaming sites to take sporting bets. This would make corporations like Loto-Quebec or better able to compete against foreign operators. Canadians spend an estimated $110 million annually betting on single event sporting events according to Casino Reports. This amount does not include spending on online slot machines, poker, etc.

Although gambling falls under provincial jurisdiction, the legality of it is governed by the Criminal Code of Canada under federal jurisdiction. That is why Ford is calling upon Ottawa to modernize gambling laws.

Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli wrote to federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau recently, asking for amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada legalizing single event sports wagering in Canada reports The Toronto Sun. Fedeli points out that some 20 US states already allow such betting and suggests Canada is losing substantial revenues by not emulating the USA.

Specifically, gambling and betting are covered by Part VII of the criminal code under the section heading: Disorderly Houses, Gaming and Betting.

Among those supporting Ford and Fedeli is NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman who is told The Sun that a level playing surface for sports betting is in the best interest of the NHL’s sports betting landscape.

It is unclear if federal authorities will follow up on this request. If they do, a complete review of online gambling—beyond single-event sporting bets—might also be in order. As noted earlier, there is a lot of money involved.

A Canadian living in the United Kingdom, Mark Scheinberg made much of his fortune by co-founding the online gambling house PokerStars in 2001 before selling it in 2014 for $4.9 billion US ($6.53 billion CDN). He is also the richest person on the Isle of Man reports Forbes.

Currently, there is a concentration of online gambling houses in such offshore locations as: Cyprus, Gibraltar, and the Isle of Man. Not all the online gambling presence is located offshore however; it seems that many have a connection with Kahnawake, just across the Mercier Bridge from Montreal.

The Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC), located on traditional Mohawk territory, claims exemption from Canadian law. This body is described as a gaming regulatory body that licenses and regulates a large number of online casinos, online poker rooms, and online sportsbook sites,” according to Wikipedia.

The online companies licensed by Kahnawake could be located elsewhere. Apart from online (interactive) gaming, Kahnawake is also known for its land-based gambling enterprises; the KGC website lists three poker rooms there as all being licensed operators.

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