The History of Canadian Gambling Laws

Canadian Gambling Laws History

Before 1970, Canadian gambling laws were stringent and outlawed most forms of gambling in the country. Any forms of illegal gaming were activities primarily associated with organised crime. Of course, this changed after 1970 as many forms of gambling that were once illegal were becoming available to Canadian citizens.

The origins of Canadian gambling laws can be found back in 1892 when the Criminal Code was enacted. In it, the first regulations on gambling were introduced. In 1910, the code was amended to allow pari-mutuel betting for horse racing. Games of chance were also allowed but only for charitable or religious purposes.

This all changed when the late 1900s rolled in, and other forms of gambling were being legalised for the wider audience. In 1970, the Criminal Code was again amended and gave the opportunity for the country’s provinces to manage the gambling laws on a local level. For example, the gambling laws in Alberta are different from the Quebec gambling laws.

The gambling laws in Canada can now vary depending on the province or territory you are in. The Canadian government generally doesn’t view illegal gambling as a big threat as it is widely accepted as a victimless crime. Most provincial laws are there to ensure players’ safety and regulate revenue.

  • 1892 – Canadian Criminal Code is enacted. First regulations on gambling applied.
  • 1910 – Criminal Code is amended, allowing pari-mutuel betting and games of chance for religious or charitable purposes.
  • 1970 – Criminal Code is amended again, allowing Canadian provinces to decide on gambling laws on a local level.
  • 1989 – Canada’s first commercial casino is opened in Winnipeg.
  • 1st April 2000 – Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation was founded. It is the main regulator of gambling activities in Canada.
  • 2010 – Criminal Code is amended, and adjustments were made to illegal gambling offences.

Right after the 1970 amendment to the Canadian gambling laws and the provinces regulating gaming activities on a local level, the first commercial casino opened its doors in 1989. It was located in Winnipeg and was an instant hit. Soon after that, in 1993, the next land-based casino was opened in Montreal.

There are, of course, Canada’s provincial gambling laws could benefit some gambling types more than others. For example, Manitoba, British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta are homes to the most Canadian First Nation casinos compared to other territories in the country.

Two of the main gambling products that Canadians enjoyed the most before the 2000s were Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) and horse racing. Horse race betting was so popular that in 1984 alone, Canadian punters bet a total amount of C$1.64 billion on racetracks across the country according to the gambling statistics in Canada.

Just like with the Canadian gambling laws, the legal age for such activities can vary depending on which type of gambling you want to partake in and the province you are in. The legal gambling age in Canada varies between 18 and 19 years old. The same goes for online gambling, which we will cover later in our article.

Canada Provincial Gambling Laws

Canadian Provincial Gambling Laws Guide
As we have mentioned earlier, the Gambling laws in Canada can vary depending on the province or territory you are in. This is due to the 1970 amendment of the Criminal Code, which gave responsibility to provincial governments to locally decide on their gambling laws.

As you know, there are 10 provinces in Canada, including Ontario, Nova Scotia, Quebec, British Columbia, etc. To see what is legal and what is not in terms of gambling products in these states, keep on reading.

Canadian provinces and local regulator:

  1. Ontario – Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation
  2. Nova Scotia – Alcohol, Gaming, Fuel and Tobacco Division Service of Nova Scotia
  3. Quebec – Loto Quebec
  4. British Colombia – British Colombia Lottery Corporation (BCLC)
  5. New Brunswick – New Brunswick Gaming Control
  6. Manitoba – Liquor and Gaming Commission of Manitoba
  7. Newfoundland and Labrador – Service NL
  8. Alberta – Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission
  9. Prince Edward Island – Prince Edward Island Lotteries Commission
  10. Saskatchewan – Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority

Each province has its own government body that regulates gambling activities locally. The laws do not vary wildly and are relatively lenient when compared to Canada’s southern neighbour. The most reputable authority in the country is the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, which also manages the online gambling laws in Canada, but we will cover that later. Next, we will go over the specifics of Canada’s gambling laws based on the province.

Gambling Laws in Ontario

As the most populated province in Canada, Ontario has 90% of its residents within an hour’s drive of legal gambling establishments. There are over 25 active land-based casinos, sports betting venues and racetracks. Overall, casinos, sports betting, horse race betting, lottery and charitable gaming are legal in the province. You have to be at least 19 years old to gamble in Ontario.

Quebec Gambling Laws

Quebec has been famous for its legal gambling since the 1970s, when the Criminal Act was amended. It’s worth noting that this province’s population is mostly French-speaking. The legal forms of gambling in Quebec are casinos, horse racing, lottery, online gambling, sports betting, VLTs, bingo and charitable gambling. In order to gamble legally in Quebec, you need to be at least 18 years old. You can easily check out and join one of the best Quebec casino sites.

Gambling Laws in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is the second smallest province in Canada in terms of area. This province is popular for its fishing and well-developed agriculture. We would like to note that there are only two land-based casinos in the province, both of which are government owned. The legal forms of gambling in Nova Scotia are casinos, lottery, charitable gambling, horse racing, sports betting, VLTs and online gambling. You need to be at least 19 years old to gamble legally even at casino sites in Nova Scotia.

New Brunswick – Which Gambling Activities are Legal?

This province is not as populated as the others, with under 1 million citizens. This doesn’t hinder gambling in New Brunswick at all. There is a wide range of legal gambling activities and establishments available to the citizens. You can partake in casino games, VLTs, horse racing, sports betting, lottery, charitable gaming and online gambling, such as the top New Brunswick casino sites. The legal gambling age in New Brunswick is 19 years old.

Manitoba Legal Gambling Laws

All gaming activities in the province are overseen and regulated by the Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba. While thousands of available offshore Manitoba online casinos, there is a singular licensed and government-owned online gambling operator. Citizens can partake in casino gaming, online gambling, lottery, horse racing, charitable gaming, sports betting and VLTs. That is, of course, only if the players are at or over the legal gambling age of 18 years old.

British Columbia Gambling Laws

The legal gambling age in British Colombia is 19 years old. If you cover that requirement, you will have access to various forms of legal gambling activities and establishments, such as casinos, horse racing, lottery, charitable gaming, online gambling and sports betting. Unfortunately, VLTs are not available in British Colombia. Of course, you can check out our British Columbia online casino guide for all your virtual gambling itches.

Legal Gambling in Prince Edward Island

Also known as the smallest province in Canada, Prince Edward Island consists of one major island and 231 smaller ones. What is interesting about this province is that it has one of the lowest gambling rates in Canada. The legal gambling activities are casino gaming, sports betting, charitable gaming, lottery, horse racing, online gambling and VLTs.

You must be at least 19 years old to legally gamble in this province. Although gambling is not as popular as when compared to the other provinces, there is a wide range of Prince Edward Island casino sites available.

Newfoundland and Labrador Gambling Laws

As the easternmost province, Newfoundland and Labrador allow almost any gambling within its borders. The only exception is land-based casinos, although First Nation tribes have the right to operate their facilities. The legal forms of gambling in the province are charitable gaming, lottery, horse racing, VLTs, sports betting, and various online gambling. The legal gambling age in Newfoundland and Labrador is 19 years old. To compensate for the lack of brick-and-mortar establishments, you can find a wide range of online operators in our Newfoundland and Labrador casino sites guide.

Alberta Legal Gambling Laws

The Alberta province in Canada has a long history of sports betting and gambling. Over 4% of their government’s budget is received from gambling revenue. Unfortunately, after a study from 2013, it seems like Alberta has a lot of problem gamblers. The legal forms of gambling in the province are casinos, VLTs, sports betting, horse racing, lottery, charitable gaming and online gambling, for which we have made a Alberta online casinos guide. The legal gambling age in Alberta is 18 years old.

Saskatchewan Laws on Gambling

Saskatchewan is popular in Canada due to its statistic that its citizens spend more per household on gambling than any other region in the country. Citizens of this sunny province can enjoy casino gaming, charitable gambling, VLTs, lottery, sports betting, horse racing and online gambling. Of course, you must be at least 19 years old to legally gamble in this province. There are also a wide variety of offshore Saskatchewan online casinos available to the public.

Avoiding the Risk of Illegal Gambling in Canada

Knowing the Canadian gambling laws is not enough to ensure your safety and to avoid the risk of gambling illegally in the country. You will need to look out for the establishment you are entering or the online operator you are joining has valid licenses and certificates that prove their legality.

Canadian Provincial Gambling Authorities

The Provincial Gambling Authorities in Canada
While the Canadian laws about gambling are similar throughout all of the 10 provinces, after the 1970 amendment of the Criminal Act, the laws have to be governed locally.

This means that each Canadian province has its own regulatory body that oversees gambling activities within its borders. This means that what is applicable in one state may not be the case in another. Here is a short list of them:

A valid licence is a must for any gambling establishment in the country. This licence doesn’t only mean that the operator is legal according to the gambling laws in Canada, but also adheres to strict safety requirements. When it comes to online gambling in Canada, things start to differ. Hence why we will be covering that in the next paragraphs.

Online Gambling Laws in Canada

Details About the Online Gambling Laws in Canada

According to Canadian online gambling laws, an online operator cannot be based and licensed within the country. Fortunately, this excludes offshore sites, and Canadian players are free to enjoy online gambling through them. This, of course, brings other issues to the table.

There are thousands of online gambling sites that are accessible from Canada. The internet is a perfect place for malicious activities and unsafe gambling. This is why it is crucial for CA players to play only at licensed websites. A great place to start is to check out the best gambling sites in Canada and pick your favourite one.

In general, the Canadian laws on gambling online allow players to enjoy nearly any form of gambling available at the online operators. This includes online casino games, sports betting, horse racing, online lottery, bingo, live dealer games, poker and more. Online gambling in Canada is quite popular and continuously growing as the years go by.

Legal online gambling activities in Canada:

  • Online Casino Games
  • Live Dealer Games
  • Sports Betting
  • Horse Race Betting
  • Online Lottery
  • Bingo
  • Poker

You can find a great mix or even all of the above-mentioned options at the best real money casino sites in Canda. What is important here is to always play at licensed and regulated operators. Betting on sports is also extremely popular among Canadians, and platforms are dedicated to that. Joining any of the top CA sports betting sites will give you access to a variety of sports and betting markets.

Worldwide Regulators at Canadian Gambling Sites

If you’re wondering how you can ensure your safety and security while playing at online operators from Canada, then this part of the article is what you’re looking for. Various government authorities can license online operators and have strict requirements. Great examples are the UK Gambling Commission and the Malta Gaming Authority. Below, there is a list of the most reputable online gambling regulators worldwide:

  • United Kingdom Gambling Commission
  • Malta Gaming Authority
  • Kahnawake Gaming Commission

The Kahnawake Gaming Commission is especially worth a mention as it is based in Quebec, Canada, in the Mohawk territory. As it is on Mohawk land, the Canadian online gambling laws cannot ban this organisation to issue online gaming licenses to operators.

Canada Gambling Laws Conclusion

Canada is a country that has a long history of gambling activities. It is actually one of the favourite past times of many citizens. Since the amendment of the Criminal Code in 1970, the regulation of gaming activities was left in the hands of the local provinces, and gambling started to flourish.

Whether you want to play at land-based establishments or the best online casinos in Canada, you will find a wide range of legal gambling activities available. To partake in them, you will need to be at or above the legal gambling age in your province.


We hope you enjoyed our guide on gambling laws in Canada. Below, you will find a few of the most popular questions that Canadian players have regarding the topic and specific Canada’s provincial gambling laws. Feel free to contact us if any other queries need answering.

1️⃣ Is gambling legal in Canada?

Yes, it is. According to the gambling laws in Canada, gambling is regulated on a local level depending on which province you are in. In general, you can enjoy casino gambling, sports betting, lottery, online gambling, charitable gaming and horse racing.

2️⃣ Is it legal to gamble online in Canada?

In short, yes it is legal, but there are a few nuances. According to the Canadian laws on gambling online, operators based in the country cannot obtain online gaming licenses. This, of course, does not stop CA players from enjoying offshore gambling sites as it is not considered illegal.

3️⃣️ What is the legal gambling age in Canada?

It varies depending on the province that you are in. In general, the legal gambling age in Canada is 19 years old, except for Alberta, Calgary, Manitoba, Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec, where you can enjoy gambling when you are 18 years old.

4️⃣ Which Canadian provinces have legalised gambling?

In general, all provinces and territories have legalised most forms of gambling. Of course, there will be some differences when it comes to the Canada’s provincial gambling laws, such as outlawing online gambling, land-based casino establishments or Virtual Lottery Machines.

5️⃣ Who regulates gambling in Canada?

After the 1970 amendment of the Criminal Code, regulation and licensing of gambling establishments were passed down to the local provincial governments. This meant that each territory will have its own regulatory body and the establishment of local Canadian gambling authorities was necessary.

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