The Curious Case of Gambling in Canada


Canada is a country with quite a few casinos. It has over fifty land-based casino resorts, either in major cities, or in tourist destinations of the country. The casinos don't limit themselves to just "casino" games: they often double as sports betting establishments. Some of them are placed next to racetracks, allowing their patrons to place their bets and enjoy the races themselves. Others double as off-course betting destinations, allowing visitors to bet on anything from hockey to horses.

But when it comes to online casino games, things are very different.

First of all, you are only legally allowed to gamble "in" Canada today online at a handful of establishments, run by its regions' official lotteries. Actually, this is not entirely true: Canadians are not banned from playing online at other casinos. But these off-shore casinos are not regulated properly, meaning that they have no license, and don't pay any taxes in the respective regions.

The situation is bad for local governments. They miss out on massive amounts of taxes each year by not regulating the online gambling activity of their citizens. Canadians like to gamble, and do gamble online - only at facilities out of the local authorities' reach.

To keep at least a part of the money in the country, state lotteries have decided to give online gambling a try. The first company to open a Canadian online casino was the lottery of British Columbia, launching back in 2004. Since then the casino has developed into a popular gaming destination for locals, offering casino games, online poker, sports betting, bingo and lottery tickets to its visitors. Loto Quebec followed with its EspaceJeux, in December 2010. While it has weaker results to report, still it's an alternative to offshore casino operators. And the most recent of them all is PlayOLG, launched by the Ontario lottery about one year ago. The portal offers just casino games and lottery tickets at this time, but plans to introduce sports betting and poker very soon.

But Canadians are still using offshore gambling destinations, for multiple reasons.

First of all, most offshore casinos have a much larger game variety. Even if they have a single software supplier, their game library is twice or even five times bigger than that offered by any local Canadian establishment. And there are casinos out there with over a thousand games in their offer. Hard to compete with that...

The other reasons is that outside casinos offer much bigger bonuses to their players, not to mention their promotional offers. One of the offshore casinos preferred by Canadians gives away tickets to Caribbean cruises, sports cars and other similar prizes each year. Talk about an incentive... The Canadian gaming operators have proposed for ISPs to block access to offshore gambling destinations. This measure was met with serious opposition, and has been dropped. So, the situation on the Canadian gaming market remains curious for the time being.