Sports betting, and online sports betting, in particular, is growing in popularity across the entire world, including in the North American nation of Canada. Neighbors of the United States of America to the north, Canada’s online sports betting laws can be difficult to navigate.
In this article, we’ll discuss the current legality of sports betting and online sports betting, how things have evolved, and what online sportsbooks are best for Canadian residents.
Since the 1800s, Canada has seen a dramatic shift in terms of gambling regulation, including sports betting. In 1982, the country banned all forms of gambling via its Criminal Code. However, the attitude towards gambling quickly pivoted and by the early 1900s both bingo and raffles were being allowed for charitable purposes. Shortly thereafter, horse racing was an allowed form of gambling throughout Canada.
Due to amendments made in the 1990s to Canada’s Criminal Code, the provinces of Canada were given individual authority to regulate lotteries, racing, slot machines, and casinos. In 1971, Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Gambling Hall in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada effectively became the first land-based casino in Canada.
In Canada, sports betting laws, are governed by the federal government and the 10 provincial governments. The country’s federal system is set up so that the federal government shares governing power with the 10 provincial governments, which are Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan.
To better understand the current climate of online sports betting, you must first understand sports betting laws in each province. Below is a summary of sports betting laws by province, as there are differences between the 10.
– Gaming and sports betting operators must adhere to Alberta’s Gaming and Liquor Act, which was recently amended in 2013.
– The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) and the Western Canada Lottery Corporation (WCLC) operate sports betting games in Alberta under the following brand entities: PRO-LINE, Point Spread, Pro-Picks Pools and Pro-Picks Props. Each has their own particular set of regulations and wagering limitations.
– Currently, there are no regulated online sports betting websites operating out of Alberta, however, there are several alternative options for residents.
– The Gaming Control Act of 2002 put in place laws and regulations that govern gaming and sports betting in British Columbia, which is regulated by the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch (GPEB).
– British Columbia residents have the ability to bet online via the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), regulated by the sports betting company PlayNow.com. However, only six sports betting games are available, such as Oddset 3-Outcome, Oddset 2-Outcome, Point Spread, Over/Under, Toto and Props.
– PlayNow.com enforces restrictions on their online betting site, including regulating bet sizes and betting on a single game.
– Manitoba’s Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba (LGA) regulates all of the region’s gaming and sports betting operations. The Manitoba Lotteries Corporation (MLC) also works in conjunction with the LGA to govern, such as regulating and licensing video lottery terminal (VLT) operators.
– The MLC operates sports betting games in Manitoba under the following brand entities: PRO-LINE, Point-Spread, Pro-Picks Pools and Pro-Picks Props.
– PlayNow.com is also available to Manitoba residents for online gaming and sports betting.
– The New Brunswick Lotteries and Gaming Corporation (NBLGC) oversees and regulates gambling and sports betting in the province of New Brunswick. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) is also a governing body recognized in the province.
– The ALC operates sports betting games in New Brunswick under the following brand entities: PRO-LINE, PRO-LINE Fantasy, PRO-LINE Futures and Stadium-Bets.
– Online sports betting is accessible via ALC’s site, ProLineStadium.com.
– Along with the ALC, the province established their Lottery Licensing Regulations in 2002, which dictate the rules and regulations for gambling and sports betting. The Service Newfoundland and Labrador (Service NL) also serves as a ministry that helps govern gaming activities in the province.
– The ALC operates sports betting games in Newfoundland and Labrador under the following brand entities: PRO-LINE, PRO-LINE Fantasy, PRO-LINE Futures and Stadium-Bets.
– PRO-LINE websites allow for regulated online sports betting to be accessible for residents of the province.
– The Alcohol and Gaming Division (AGD) of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is tasked with enforcing the laws and regulations set forth in the province’s Gaming Control Act, which was passed in 1995.
– The Nova Scotia Provincial Lotteries & Casino Corporation (NSPLCC) and the ALC also have roles in regulating and governing gambling and sports betting in Nova Scotia.
– Online sports betting games are available via ALC’s ProLineStadium.com.
– In 1998, Ontario established the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to managed and regulate casino gaming and wagering in the province.
– The OLG operates sports betting games in Ontario under the following brand entities: PRO-LINE, Point-Spread, Pro-Picks Pools and Pro-Picks Props.
– OLG offers online sportsbook options, however, similar to many other provinces operating under the same entities, single-game wagering is not allowed.
– The PEI Lotteries Commission along with the ALC is responsible for governing all gaming and sports betting operations for the province of Prince Edward Island.
– The ALC offers online sports betting for residents under their brand entities, however, they receive a lot of competition from offshore sportsbooks.
– In 1993, Quebec formed the Quebec Alcohol, Racing, and Gaming Commission to regulate lotteries and casino gaming in the province.
– Currently, Loto-Quebec manages operations for all sports betting games in the Quebec, including online sportsbooks.
– The main governing entity for all gaming activities in Saskatchewan is the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA), including oversight of casinos run by the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA).
– The Saskatchewan Lotteries is responsible for handling all sports betting and online sports betting operations under various governmental entities, most notably PRO-LINE.
As you can see there are several similarities between the 10 provinces. For the most part, each province passes legislation related to casino gaming, sports betting, and online sports betting that is then governed by their respective government agencies.
Additionally, most of the sports betting is regulated by the ALC and operates under specific brand names such as PRO-LINE and Stadium Bets. These entities offer certain sports betting games for residents, however, they come with much regulation and fewer choices relative to offshore sites. The largest difference is the inability to wager on a single-team for any type of sports bet.
Therefore, residents of Canada often turn to offshore sportsbooks that are less regulatory and provide more choices for the types of wagers, bet sizes, etc.
While Canada has made the effort to actively govern online sports betting in each of its provinces they haven’t been able to pass definitive legislation that bans offshore sports betting. The law is more concerned with illegal operators inside the country that are not part of the regulatory system established by the federal government and the 10 provinces.
Thus, if you are a placing bet on an offshore sportsbook the government is less concerned by your actions as you are essentially taking advantage of a grey area due to the lack of jurisdictional power. There seems to be no known case of the Canadian government prosecuting a citizen for placing a sports bet online via an offshore book.
As indicated previously the government of Canada has established a number of online sportsbooks and brand entities to manage sports betting operations within each of its provinces. With this government control, comes less choice, less favorable odds, and a lack of enticing bonuses relative to offshore sportsbooks.
Below are a few differences you’ll find between Canada’s sportsbook brands such as PRO-LINE, PRO-LINE Fantasy, PRO-LINE Futures and Stadium-Bets, PlayNow.com, Point Spread, etc., and offshore options.
– In general, the odds via government regulated sportsbooks are less favorable compared to offshore online sportsbooks. In Canada, the average payout on a winning wager is up to 50% less than you’d receive from winning a similar bet via an offshore sportsbook.
– Due to unrevised Canadian law, you cannot place one wager on a single game. In fact, you can only partake in parlay wagers. In other words, you must bet on at least 3 games, or two games if you are betting point spreads, and you must win all your bets on your ticket in order to get paid.
– There are limited options with Canadian sportsbooks. For example, you will not find any college sports via PRO-LINE, and wagering on NBA basketball is not allowed in Ontario.
– Regulated sportsbooks, such as PRO-LINE, limit the maximum wager size to $100.
Offline sports betting in Canada depends upon which province you are located in. For instance, sports betting at a land-based casino is possible in Toronto, ON, however, limited to Casino Niagara only. Otherwise, brick-and-mortar locations are controlled by the provincial governments. For example, in Toronto, ON, the government entity is the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG).
In general, most land-based casinos in each province will not accept sports bets, and it is best that you refer to the local governing agency to find out the approved sports betting locations. Sports betting tickets are often times offered at the same locations where lottery tickets are sold.
Lawmakers in Canada have been actively reviewing overall reform and current legislation since around 2011. In 2016, the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act was introduced at the federal level in an attempt to make betting on a single game legal. It has only been voted on once, and it was denied. However, efforts such as this do not go unnoticed.
In 2017, Ontario took steps towards potential sports betting reform. The OGL is evaluating adding esports betting along with live-betting. Within their province. Additionally, Canada is a close follower of the United States. With more states pushing for online sports betting reform at the state and federal level in the US, the conversation seems to be having an effect in Canadians as well.
Overall, there are often times confusing rules, strict regulations, limits on bet sizes (i.e. $100 max for a single ticket), and therefore Canadian sports bettors are gravitating towards options outside of their own country for online sports betting.