Welcome to PlayCanada, the comprehensive guide to legal gambling in Canada – both live and online. This site unpacks the national and provincial options for gambling at casinos, betting on sports, playing poker and more.
Jurisdiction over gambling was diverted to the provincial governments in 1985. Projects were started, leading to the huge choice of commercial and First Nations casinos available today. More recently, multiple provinces opened online gambling sites and Canada has plans to legalize single-event wagering.
This page links to detailed guides covering all the main forms of gambling. You will find a summary of the current Canadian gambling laws below. After that is a look at each of the main types of gambling, including a province-by-province guide to live casinos, racetracks, and poker rooms.
Gambling activity comes under a mix of national and provincial laws. The national Criminal Code has sections covering sports betting and holds jurisdiction over online gambling. Live casinos, poker rooms, lotteries and charity gambling are controlled by individual provinces.
A key question for many Canadian gamblers is the legal status of offshore gambling sites. Offshore sites are not legal in Canada. Canada is in the midst of moving towards regulated online gambling, with the recent move to table a bill allowing single-event betting. Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford, proposed regulating online gambling as part of the 2020 budget.
As for current laws, it is illegal to operate an unlicensed gambling house anywhere in Canada. It is also illegal to knowingly enter an illegal gambling house.
Live casinos and poker rooms, bingo, lottery tickets and charitable gambling are all under the jurisdiction of the provinces. Provinces have departments overseeing gambling (often along with liquor) and have established Crown Corporations to operate casinos.
Some provinces license commercial casinos to private operators – using their Crown Corporations to oversee gambling activities. First Nation casinos are found throughout Canada. Many are run for the benefit of native community.
Live casino venues in Canada range from the luxury resorts in Montreal, Niagara Falls and Vancouver – to small First Nations venues set in scenic surroundings. Many of the big resorts rival even the mega-casinos in Las Vegas in terms of size, gaming options and facilities.
Slots are the most popular games. There are 1000’s of titles in the bigger casinos. They include the latest games from global providers including IGT, Scientific Games and Aristocrat. You will find old-style mechanical slots, video slots and the latest titles co-branded with movie and music franchises in Canadian casinos. Progressive jackpots include prizes which are linked between casinos in some provinces. Examples include the Smoke Signals jackpot in Manitoba.
Table games in Canadian casinos include classics like blackjack, roulette, and baccarat. There is a Canadian variation of blackjack, though this is rare. The standard North American rules, where the dealer ‘peeks’ at their down card are used. Electronic versions of table games are common in smaller Canadian casinos. Bigger venues have casino poker variations such as 3-Card Poker. You will find jackpot side bets available. Keno, bingo, and video poker are also popular options.
Several provinces have created casino loyalty rewards schemes which cover multiple casinos. Examples include the Encore Rewards scheme in BC and the Winner’s Edge scheme in Alberta. These programs sometimes run alongside independent programs – giving players two ways to earn rewards. As an incentive to new members, free play on slots is available via selected schemes.
Known as VLTs, consoles offering slot and keno style games are available in 8 provinces. They first appeared in New Brunswick in 1990 – becoming popular everywhere except Ontario and British Columbia over time.
VLTs offer multiple games in a single cabinet. The random number generator and percentage return for each game can’t be adjusted for individual consoles. Slots include versions of classics by IGT and others. Saskatchewan also includes provincial jackpot games in their VLTs.
Several provinces have developed their own online gambling portals. They offer slots, casino table games (including live dealer options), video poker, bingo / keno options and player vs player poker. Sports betting (Sport Select, Pro Line and others) are also accessed via portals.
Advantages of playing at the official provincial gambling portals include safety and security. While many offshore brands have a great reputation, you have no legal recourse if you have a dispute with them. The official portals are run by provincial governments. You can be sure that the games are fair and that your deposits are safe. The other big advantage is that money raised stays in your region – often to help education, the environment and community causes.
You can’t place bets on single matches in Canada, but this could change in the near future. Currently, you have the 2-match+ setup, with multiple ways to bet.
Sports betting is handled via VLTs and online portals in multiple provinces. There are different names for these services, though the format is broadly the same across them. Names include Sport Select, and Pro Line.
You can bet on win (for the home team or visiting team), totals, spreads, or player props. Bets are limited to the major sports. Hockey, football, baseball, and soccer are all popular markets. Parlays need a minimum of two outcomes, with a maximum of eight on some services. Player and in-match props are sport specific.
Alternative ways to bet include picks contests. These resemble the popular Daily Fantasy Sports – where you complete with other players for prizes. There are also stadium and futures betting options.
Canada has a thriving live poker scene. There are dedicated rooms in major casinos, plus options on First Nations territory.
Texas Hold’em is the most popular poker format in Canada. You will also find Pot Limit Omaha, Omaha Hi-Lo and mixed poker game options. Tournaments include regular small buy-in games, with occasional bigger events attracting professional players.
Alternative options for live poker include home games (legal in every province, if nobody is making a profit from hosting the game), and charity poker tournaments. For the fund-raising events, licenses and terms are controlled at the province level.
Online poker is available on the BC and QC gambling portal. The more popular option for players that take poker seriously is to head to the bigger offshore poker sites.
The Canadian lottery started in 1974. This is available in every province. There is a mix of national games and local / regional games. Lotteries are regulated by the provinces, with several of them joining into groups to run their games. Groups include the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, Western Canada Lottery Corporation, and the BC Lottery site – which is shared with Manitoba.
Big prize draws include Lotto Max, Lotto 6/49, and the Daily Grand. These operate throughout Canada – and can be won from any province. There are multiple regional / single province games with prizes of more than $1 million. The largest lottery prize won in Canada is was $64 million. This was won via a ticket bought in Mississauga, ON, in 2015.
You can buy lottery tickets online in most provinces. This includes multi-draw subscriptions. Second chance draws are available for losing retail tickets. Online lotteries include ‘iBingo’, instant games (which resemble scratch cards) and keno style games.
There are racetracks in almost every province. They host a mix of thoroughbred, standard bred and harness racing during the summer months. Betting at racetracks and ‘racetrack casinos’ uses the parimutuel format.
You can bet on races from around Canada, the USA and selected international races via ‘teletheatre’ setups. This simulcast betting is available at racetracks and OTB offices.
Charity gambling requires licenses from provincial governments. Overall, the laws share the requirement for applicants to be a licensed charity or religious organization. Charity gambling events can be casino nights (sometimes called Monte Carlo events), bingo, break out games, raffles, lotteries, or poker tournaments. All the money raised needs to go to a good cause.
Several First Nations casinos are run for the benefit of the community. In addition to providing jobs, money raised supports local projects.
There are major differences in your gambling options depending on which province you live in. Smaller provinces including PE and only have one or two small casinos. Compared with the giant luxury resorts of ON and QC, the choices are small.
Below you will find a summary of the gambling options in each province. Check out the detailed guide for each one to get a full overview of your options:
Provinces set the legal age for gambling. Most of them opt for 19 if you want to gamble in live casinos or poker rooms. Quebec, Alberta, and Manitoba set a lower minimum at 18. Some of the provinces allow lottery tickets to be bought by anyone over 18.
Yes. Online gambling sites through the official provincial portals like eSpaceJeux and PlayNow. Offshore sites are not legal or regulated in Canada.
No, unless you’re a professional gambler. This covers pro poker players and sports bettors – with their profits treated as business income.
For everyone else, gambling winnings can be enjoyed tax free. This includes lottery wins, slots jackpots and big wins from sports betting parlays.
There have been discussions and even draft bills covering regulation and licensing of gambling brands in Canada. None have passed, yet. Experts in the industry believe Canada will open to the doors to regulated gambling sites.
Potential for income for the government through the tax revenues from gambling are significant. It’s estimated that Canada is losing $14 billion per year to the offshore market. Roads to recovering this tax include both regulation and outright bans (in favour of the provincial government-run portals)
There have also been moves to introduce single match sports betting – again, no bills are currently in the legislative process.