With jurisdictional disputes, conflicting and/or vague national laws, and the already burgeoning gang of online casinos hosted in friendlier venues, one would think finding a Canadian online casino actually based in Canada to be as rare as an Ontario resident who can’t give you directions to the nearest Tim Hortons.
One would be wrong.
In addition to the online casinos hosted throughout the world that are permitted to do business with Canadians, Canada is home to a multitude of online gambling establishments.
At one time, you couldn’t gamble at all in Canada. Or maybe you could. Canadian law is (or was) quite mute on the subject.
Except for lotteries. Even as long ago as the mid-1800s, the Canadian Criminal Code did not care for them, except perhaps when they were implemented to assist a charity.
So, Canadians were permitted to buy a lottery ticket from a charitable organization. And you were allowed to bet on the occasional charitable horse race—at the race track, of course (none of your OTB shenanigans here, thank you very much). Oh, and you could buy a ticket in a church raffle.
Man, those Canadians really knew how to party back in the day.
Seriously, though, the Canadian government may not have had an opinion about other forms of gambling, but they pulled out all the stops when it came to denouncing and criminalizing lotteries.
Except for the local versions of, “Here’s how we can get a new roof on the parsonage,” noted above, the Canadian Criminal Code said it was illegal to do anything associated with “any proposal, scheme, or plan for advancing, lending, giving, selling, or in any way disposing of any property, by lots, cards, tickets, or any mode of chance whatever.”
And Then, It Happened
That all changed back in 1969 when the Canadian federal government rewrote much of its Criminal Code with the Criminal Law Amendment Act. Among other changes, the amendment allowed the federal government, as well as the country’s provinces, to establish and operate lotteries in order to augment tax revenue.
One bright spot happened in the early 1980s when the provinces sued the feds for infringing on their lottery rights. The battle ended with the federal government getting out of the lottery business altogether, leaving the field open to the provinces.
Right about now you’re thinking, “So? This is mildly interesting at best. When are you gonna tell me how this all relates to online gambling?” Can you hear us sighing? Because we just sighed.
The fact that Canada took such a stern view on lotteries but remained silent or ambiguously vague on other forms of gambling might have been prudent back in the 1800s, but the Internet was waiting, 150 years in the future, to change all that.
And when online casinos and poker rooms first appeared, they were as prevalent in Canadian cyberspace as they were anywhere else in the world. However, without a clear set of rules governing gambling, many online casinos stayed away from the Canadian marketplace, and some that had initially offered online gambling to Canadians withdrew.
Why did they leave? There’s no simple answer, but for some, it was the idea that the UK—which shares its Queen with Canada—might withhold licensure in Great Britain because of what online casinos considered the “grey area” nature of Canadian gambling laws.
Sure, that might seem like a far reach, an unreasonable fear, maybe, but people who make million-dollar decisions tend to be a tad risk-averse. Go figure.
In any case, eventually, that fear dissipated. It helped that in 2010, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (a part of BD government) added casino games to its already-established lottery website, and in 2012, Manitoba followed suit. At long last, the online gambling ice had been broken in Canada.
Oh, really? Is that what happened to break the ice? Not even close.
In 1998—more than a decade before British Columba went online with their casino—the Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC) issued its first online casino license. Yes, while other online gambling operators struggled to deal with confusion and doubt, the Kahnawake Mohawks were busy building an empire.
Based on the sovereign Kahnawake Mohawk territory (situated within the borders of Quebec), the KGC reportedly had (in 2018) some 50 clients operating more than 250 online casinos, all from a server farm housed on Kahnawake Mohawk territory lands. The server farm is administered by Mohawk Internet Technologies (MIT).
You weren’t expecting that, were you? Well, nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition, either, and look how that turned out.
It does make that whole “unreasoning fear of Canada’s grey area gambling laws” a little easier to understand, though, doesn’t it?
Plus ça Change…
Okay, we’ve established that there won’t be much of a problem finding a Canadian online casino. Will there be any differences? The short answer to that question is “No, mostly.” Mostly? Yes. You can sign up with a plethora of online casinos. Some are hosted in Canada, some are hosted by Canadian provincial governments, and some are hosted by the Mohawks.
For the online casinos operated by the various provinces (British Columbia and Manitoba, for instance) you must reside in that particular province to play.
But the rest of the online gambling world typically has no such restrictions. Still, with the growth of the industry, online casinos have become quite adept at qualifying prospective players. A credit card is often used not only as a method to transfer money, but to prove the age of the prospective player, as well.
Bear in mind that for an online casino to do business with you, it must comply with whatever regulations your specific government requires. Obviously, gambling laws are not the same in the UK as they are in France, just as the gambling laws of China are not the same as those of Australia.
So online casinos have become quite adept at discovering information about you. Nothing scary, of course, but you can expect them to look at your IP address, for example.
IP addresses are used to determine your approximate physical location (at least to the point where they can be assured you’re logging on from Canada and not Antarctica), while actual GPS location services already live on your laptop (Google, for instance) can be used to pinpoint your location more accurately.
The quickest way to find out is to see if you can sign up with a casino you find interesting — no need to actually provide personal information at this point. You’ll find the casino will generally be forthright and speedy about letting you know that you cannot, for whatever reason, sign up with them. Dang. One down, five million to go…
The good news is actually great news. You will find every slot, every table game, every live dealer game—even every variation of keno—you would find anywhere else, simply because, for the most part, the online casinos offering Canadians the opportunity to gamble also serve many, many other countries. The regulators make sure the casinos monitor their players to match whatever criteria the player’s country might require, so you shouldn’t have to worry about whether you’re allowed.
You’ll also find most of the popular poker sites, as well.
These are always (or should be) in your location’s native currency, e.g., Canadian dollars for Canadians, Dollars for Americans, Pounds for Brits, and seashells for Hawaii. Just kidding on that last one. Hawaiians use Pineapples Slices.
Usually, our first tip for every online casino is to play free versions of games you like before you jump into the money pool, but we’re going to defy our instincts and say this instead:
Make sure the online casino you are making a deposit with accepts loonies. For our non-Canadian readers, a loonie is a Canadian one-dollar coin introduced back in the late 1980s. The name comes from the picture of a common loon (wipe that grin off your face!) on the heads side of the coin, and a picture of Queen Elizabeth II on the tails side (go figure). Over time, “loonie” has become synonymous with Canadian money.
We offer this advice because when you make a deposit at an online casino, their software may default to another currency, most likely US dollars or British pounds. Naturally, this is not good, since whatever credit card you’re making your deposit with could get charged with a ridiculous exchange rate.
How Do You Say Fallacy in Canadian?
Forget betting systems that predict wins based on what has occurred in the recent past. Just because the roulette ball landed on red the last seven spins of the wheel does not mean it’s more likely to land on green this next spin. It’s not. It’s exactly as likely to land on red as it is to land on green.
There are many formal errors in logic, and this one is called (wait for it) the Gambler’s Fallacy. Good job, gamblers! You got a whole formal logic fallacy named after us.
The casinos know this. Smart gamblers know this. And now, you know this, and are thereby wise and maybe even a bit better-looking. You’re welcome.
One of the best things about online casinos is they have so much competition. Seriously, they will pay you to gamble on their site, often matching your deposit by as much as 100%. Imagine your C$100 deposit becomes C$200 because the casino is offering a 100% sign-up bonus.
There is one catch, however. The bonuses online casinos pay are always paid out in small amounts based on your play. For instance, you might have to wager (over time) C$500 to get at the first C$20 of that bonus. If you’re an experienced gambler, you know that wagering a total of C$500 isn’t all that hard to do during the normal win-lose-win cycle of gambling.
That shouldn’t stop you from taking advantage of deposit bonuses. Think about it: You’re going to gamble there anyway. Might as well get paid to do it. By the way, sign-up isn’t the only time online casinos offer bonuses. They also offer them when you make another deposit, when you get a friend to sign up, when it’s Halloween… Seriously, these online casinos are crazy.
Minding Your Business
Sure, you’re at the online casino because you want to enjoy yourself for a while. But should enjoying yourself cost so much? Managing your bankroll is serious business and learning to budget properly takes time.
First, establish the amount of your bankroll. This is not how much you’ll bet at a single session, but rather, the amount you are going to set aside for your gambling. Make this separate from your budget items like car payment, utilities, etc.
Now, set a realistic amount beyond which you will not gamble during any one gambling session. For instance, if your comfort zone is C$50 per gaming session, switch to something else when you have lost that much. Binge-watch your favorite sitcom. Maybe practice your Mandarin verbs. Clean out the garage. Actually, you might want to get to that last one right away. What are you, some kind of hoarder?
Learn to recognize when you are chasing your losses. Everybody does this at least once. It’s human nature to try again after failure or loss. The problem is that your perception of everything changes when you are chasing. Poker players call it “going on tilt” —chasing a win with a growing sense of desperation—and they learn to recognize it in their opponents.
Desperation is not a good look for you.
We’re pretty sure that’s Quebecois for “Bob’s Your Uncle” but who really knows with the Frenchies? So, let’s see…
Do a brief overview of the history of Canada’s seeming flirtation with chaos, aka Canadian gambling laws? Check.
Talk about the plethora of online casinos offering Canadians the opportunity to play their favorite games? Check.
Offer some hot tips for improving everyone’s gambling experience that everyone will agree with and then promptly ignore? Check.
Avoid making any jokes about Canadians’ allegedly excessive use of “eh”? Check.
Make lame Tim Horton’s joke to compensate for resisting the temptation to make an “eh” joke? Check.
Guess we covered everything! Now that we’ve given you some knowledge on the ins and outs of Canadian online casinos, you’re ready to take a tour of the top sites we listed back at the top of this article and see for yourself.
Oh, and good luck, eh?