Online casinos in Canada: The grey zone is still very attractive


In theory, Canada’s regional lottery operators, not-for-profit companies run by the local governments, are the only businesses that can legally offer online gambling services to Canadians. In Montreal, this is Loto Quebec through its EspaceJeux online casino. The company launched EspaceJeux on December 1st, 2010, hoping to offer local players a worthy alternative to offshore casinos operating in the so-called “grey zone”, promising to turn the money they spend there into funding for various local projects. And its plans were at least a limited success: EspaceJeux keeps posting growing revenues each quarter, both when it comes to online lottery tickets and casino games. This, in turn, didn’t stop online players to keep playing at offshore outlets – and they have a good reason to do so.

Game variety

The majority of the offshore casinos available in Canada use the software provided by one or more major European developers. The companies listed at are all trying to make do on a competitive global market, and this means that they compete with each other when it comes to the quality and variety of their games. While some online casinos stick to a single developer, they always try to choose one with a large game library (like Microgaming) or games with superior quality (like NetEnt). Many of them gather their game collection from more than one developer, offering their players a massive library of over 1000 games to choose from.

At this point, EspaceJeux has a far more limited variety of games from just one company – Scientific Games, the business behind its lottery terminals. While its games are great, there are simply too few of them to keep the players from migrating offshore for more.

Bonuses and jackpots

Offshore casinos start throwing with jackpots at their players right from their first real-money deposit and keep pushing further bonuses upon them for every subsequent one. Besides, they have many promotions and special offers, and they give out loyalty points as well. Compared to EspaceJeux’s offers, these are much more attractive and offer much more play time (contrary to popular belief, most online casino players go there to play, not to win).

And when it comes to jackpots, the offer of the offshore casinos is far more attractive as well – Mega Moolah, the world record holding slot machine operated by Microgaming, currently stands at almost CAD12 million, and the Hall of Gods slot machine by NetEnt has a total value of around CAD5.7 million. The chance of winning such a life-changing amount, even if it’s slim, is attractive enough to beat parochialism in online gambling.

Until the state-run online casinos in Canada start offering their players game variety, bonuses, and jackpots comparable to their offshore counterparts, the grey zone will continue to thrive.

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