The latest on legal online gambling in Canada

The humble beginnings of today’s booming online casino industry can be traced back to the mid-1990s. Canada opened the virtual doors of its first online casino in 1994, more than a decade after the official birth of the internet in 1983.

Disappointing visuals and slow internet speeds typified online gambling experiences in those days. At first, this novel and forward-thinking initiative didn’t offer much of a wow factor.

Since then, technological advances have transformed this fiercely competitive industry, giving players immediate access to the best online casinos in Canada. Game selections are vast and many online casinos include a bevy of diverse table games, slots, sportsbooks and live dealer games.

Online gambling and the Canadian Criminal Code

Similar to the red-tape struggles of other online casinos across the globe, those in Canada contended with the Canadian Criminal Code for legality. This law saw the light during the 19th century and put a blanket ban on Canadian gambling exploits until 1969.

The rising demand to legalize gambling and the inherent economic benefits led to changes in legislation. The legalization of lotteries and certain gambling activities set the wheels in motion.

Land-based casinos enjoyed a monopoly for some time before online casinos changed this landscape in the 1990s. These progressed along with the growth spurts of the internet and heralded a new era for all things gambling.

Today, each of Canada’s 10 provinces and 3 Nations territories set their own rules for land-based and online gambling. Some still prohibit certain forms of gambling, and different age limits apply in the respective regions.

Early days of Canadian online casinos

Initially, online casino offerings were slim, and it took some time for this niche to develop attractive alternatives to its land-based counterparts. The first games included scant versions of poker, baccarat, roulette and blackjack, with a lack of available software hobbling immersive experiences.

Few people owned computers before the turn of the millennium and couldn’t access online gambling. This, coupled with the lack of feasible legislation governing the industry, constituted a rocky start for online casinos.

Modern-day Canadian online casinos

Recent reports indicate that Canada has more than 19.3 million active online gamblers. The North American country ranks eighth among countries with the highest spend on online gambling.

Estimations show that Canadians fork out roughly $4bn in non-Canadian online casinos. According to a Canadian Gaming Industry report, approximately $16bn goes into local casinos.

So, the Canadian online casinos are booming and constitute a viable source of revenue for the country as a whole. In total, this industry earned an estimated $2.64bn in 2021, with $1.2bn generated by online casinos alone.

Many maintain that these revenues will be far more if it wasn’t for the stringent rules imposed by the different provinces. However, the diverse nature of the Canadian gambling scene attracts international interest, and this indicates further growth for online casinos in particular.

Generally speaking, online casinos are legal in Canada. As mentioned, each region or province has unique laws to regulate online gambling.

These authorities issue licences, and the type of licence determines whether an online casino can operate locally or internationally. An online casino can only function on a local level if it doesn’t have a special licence.

British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba issue in-practice licences, which apply to operational online casinos. All provinces, except Saskatchewan, feature online casinos – explore Ontario’s finest online casinos and the rest of Canada for thrilling online gambling experiences. Cross-border play also requires a special agreement between provinces.

Players in Canada can access international or offshore online casinos. These don’t need a licence for Canada.

Those with an eagle eye on the online gambling industry predict exponential growth based on increased internet availability, mobile apps, and an ever-increasing need for convenience. It’s reasonable to expect that regulators and applicable legislation will change and become more efficient in line with rising demand and technological developments.

Experts anticipate changes in the way that online casinos approach marketing. Some of these may include a focus on problem gambling as further legislation is implemented. Online casinos are giving players the tools to regulate themselves, such as excluding themselves from some promotions and games.

Advances in virtual and augmented reality tools have the industry buzzing with excitement. These evolutions pose great opportunities for live dealer games. They will enable online casinos to present truly captivating encounters. Innovations such as this will, however, need additional regulations to safeguard players.

Another aspect requiring additional legal controls are crypto casinos. This fast-rising ‘new kid on the block’ uses blockchains, cryptocurrencies and novel non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to transact. It improves security as all transactions are anonymous and no financial middleman is needed.

Esports is rapidly on the rise. Indications are that this online gambling niche is slowly taking over the betting sports scene in Canada. It attracts bettors because it’s filled with action and interesting betting options. In the future, specific laws may govern this category.

August 2022 saw the lifting of the federal ban on single-game sports betting in Canada. This move came less than two months after Bill C-218 (the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act) came into effect.

Ontario took the lead and launched its new iGaming market in April 2022, which opened the doors for third-party online operators. To date, the province has approved 23 online sportsbooks.

Industry experts view this as a favourable move as Ontario constitutes approximately 40% of the Canadian population and is at the forefront of the initiative. Deloitte Canada predicts an approximate CA$28bn industry growth within the first five years in the wake of the legalization of single-event sports betting.

Adaptable legislation that creates, instead of hampers, possibilities appears to be beneficial for players, online casinos and sportsbooks, and country-based revenue.

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