Canada is at an interesting crossroads when it comes to online casinos. If you live in Canada, don’t worry – there’s virtually no chance that you’ll have any trouble playing at the vast majority of online casinos. However, some provinces treat online gambling differently than others, meaning your choices could vary substantially depending on exactly where you live.
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Are Canadian Online Casinos Legal?
Online casinos in Canada are legal no matter where you live. There are no provincial or federal laws prohibiting players from playing at online casinos, though most Canadians are prohibited from operating such sites in the country. There are exceptions for some First Nations peoples, and in fact, many popular online poker and casino sites are regulated by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, which is based in the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake.
In addition, many provincial governments have considered operating their own online gambling sites for players in those provinces. For instance, in British Columbia and Quebec, government-regulated sites are already available for use. The idea behind these sites is to give players a locally-regulated alternative to overseas sites, which some players might see as less trustworthy – or at least, less accountable in the event of a dispute. Of course, there’s something in this for the governments, too, as they can collect taxes on the revenues generated by these licensed sites.
As far as overseas sites are concerned, most of them are still happy to accept Canadian players. However, be aware that this isn’t universal; some overly cautious sites have decided not to allow Canadians to play, possibly due to concerns about Americans using the site illegally through Canada, or wanting to stay on the best possible terms with the Canadian government should licensing schemes become more widespread.
Online Gambling and Taxes in Canada
Most Canadian gamblers will never have to worry about paying taxes on their winnings. For most players, gambling winnings are not treated as income, regardless of the amount won or the type of gambling the winnings came from.
On the other hand, professional gamblers will have to claim their winnings as income, and pay taxes on them as such. In order to qualify as a professional gambler, one must invest in their gambling and use skill to win, which excludes most casino gamblers (unless, perhaps, you counted cards in blackjack or used some other method to consistently play at an advantage against the house) regardless of how often or how much they may win. In reality, this law mostly only affects professional poker players or sports bettors.
Depositing and Withdrawing
For the most part, Canadians can expect to run into few issues when trying to deposit to online casino sites. This is of course especially true of the government-licensed sites where they are available, but also extends to overseas sites as well. Since Canada doesn’t have a law analogous to the UIGEA regulations in the United States, there are basically no restrictions on what types of deposit methods can be used. This means that credit and debit cards, e-wallets, wire transfers, online banking systems and some prepaid programs are all available to most Canadian players.
It is worth noting that some payment providers have decided not to operate in the Canadian market. Again, we suspect this has to do with making it easier for them to comply with US laws, or possibly (likely unfounded) fears that similar laws will be enacted in Canada. The most notable of these is Neteller, which does not offer services to Canadians, and as of 2nd January 2014, either does Moneybookers/Skrill.
The Future of Online Casinos in Canada
First, the good news: online casinos are likely to be entirely legal in Canada for the foreseeable future. There has been no real push to ban online gambling, nor any serious attempts by any government to crack down on the current ability of Canadians to access online casino sites.
The only problem that might occur in the future is some confusion for players, as laws in various jurisdictions begin to vary significantly. Each province has the ability to establish online gambling if they choose to do so; however, not all provincial governments are equally enthusiastic about the potential income online gambling could bring them.
In fact, several provinces have already officially stated that they are not interested in licensing online gambling. Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland have all declined to do so, and it is likely that they won’t be alone. At the same time, it’s likely that other provinces that are currently studying the issue will choose to regulate online gambling. The level of regulation and the games available will likely vary between provinces.
Overall, though, there’s little for Canadian players to worry about. Since foreign sites are available to players throughout Canada, and we believe those casino sites will remain available barring a dramatic change in policy, the regulation of online gambling at the provincial level will have more impact on governmental budgets than individual players.