In an unexpected move, PokerStars has opened their casino and sportsbook to Canadian players. While Canadians have been welcome in PokerStars poker room since its launch in 2001, the recent change is the first time Canuck players can access all gaming verticals.
Promotional emails announcing the launch of PokerStars Casino and PokerStars Sports started appearing in inboxes recently. And bonus offers for new and existing users were soon to follow. Current players can take advantage of a $5 bonus. New users have access to PokerStars Casino’s welcome bonus, currently worth 100 free spins with a minimum deposit of $10.
For most Canadian players, access to PokerStars’ full lineup became accessible last week. Although at least one Ontario-based player reports having access to the casino for as long as a few months.
Availability in gray markets often subject to change
As mentioned, Canadian players have long been part of PokersStars’ pool of international players.
Even 2011’s Black Friday proved relatively minor to Canadian online poker users. Once companies shuttered by the US Department of Justice scuttled American players, they could resume serving other countries.
When it comes to Canada, understanding the legality is a bit complicated. While only certain types of gambling are legal, Canada is essentially a gray market for online betting. As the law currently stands, it would be entirely illegal for PokerStars to offer products from servers located on Canadian soil. However, the law has avoided taking a stance on offshore online betting. One exception is the province of Québec, which attempted to block IP access to offshore operators in court. The effort, however, was found unconstitutional by the courts in 2018.
It’s common in gray markets for operators to come and go based on a risk/reward analysis. Whether or not a company chooses to serve a country relies on the rewards outweighing the potential risks. And the answer is subject to change. A good example is Ladbrokes., which accepted Canadian players until 2014. But, staying in Canada wasn’t in the cards after a British regulatory change meant doing so could affect UK licensing.
Significant changes ahead for Canadian gambling
A PokerStars representative declined to comment when asked what factors lead to the decision to expand Canadian offerings. That said, the changes on the way for the Canadian gambling industry mean an already established company could gain a real advantage in a new legal market.
In Canada, casino gaming is under the purview of the province, and provincial lotteries operate legal online casinos. One province, however, is moving to amend laws to change that. Ontario is in the process of privatizing its regional online gaming market, with a launch of Ontario online casinos expected before the end of 2021.
At the same time, the Canadian sports betting scene is in flux, as Bill C-218 is in the Senate. The bill, which would legalize single-event sports wagering and allow provinces to expand iGaming markets, is currently with the Senate. Close to the end of its journey.
Other jurisdictions, particularly in Europe, have managed to transition from gray to regulated with relative ease. Despite the uncertainly of the Canadian and Ontario markets, it seems PokerStars has decided risks are worth the reward.