Legalities of Playing at Unlicensed Online Casinos in Canada
Is it legal to play at unlicensed online casinos in Canada? Answering this question is not an easy task because Canada is a grey area when it comes to online gambling.
The country does not license online casinos because it lacks the regulatory framework required to do so. Residents could sign up and play for real money at any Canada-friendly offshore online casino. But this changed in 2017 because the Canadian government made certain amendments to the Interactive Gambling Act (IGA).
These amendments gave the Canadian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) the power to block online casinos licensed in offshore jurisdictions.
The IGA – Canada’s Important Gambling Law
Canadian gambling laws are quite straightforward. Interestingly, none of them target individual online casino players. Instead, they prevent operators from running their businesses in Canada. Accepting bets on highest paying slots, roulette, poker, craps, and blackjack within the borders of Canada is illegal.
However, gambling laws in Canada do not say that it is illegal for an individual Canadian player to play for real money at an Canada-friendly offshore online casino.
The IGA comprises a set of rules for operators of online gambling businesses. This law encompasses all gambling activities that take place online through apps or websites and through the telephone.
According to the Interactive Gambling Act, the following activities are illegal:
- Offering banned forms of online gambling such as in-play sports betting, online casinos, sports betting services without an Canadian license, and lottery betting;
- Advertising banned gambling products and services;
The Canadian government made changes to the Interactive Gambling Act in 2017 and 2019. The following table highlights these changes:
Amendments of 2019
The National Self-Exclusion Register was created, enabling players to self-exclude from Canada-licensed online gambling sites if they experienced gambling harm.
As a result of these amendments, 100+ online gambling services withdrew from the Canadian market, and the latest government reports show that the amount Canadian players lose at offshore online casinos is reduced.
Companies based in Canada as well as offshore gambling companies belonging to Canadian and foreign firms have to comply with Canada’s gambling laws.
The intent of the IGA is to protect Canadians from all types of gambling harm. But it applies to operators of online gambling sites, not their potential or existing customers.
If you notice any company offering or advertising banned gambling services within Canada, you can complain to the ACMA, which has the power to block such services.
More about the ACMA and Its Powers
The ACMA regulates media and communications to maximize social and economic benefits for Canadians. Amendments to the IGA gave the ACMA several powers to curb illegal online gambling within Canadian borders and protect Canadian residents.
Here is a list of the ACMA’s powers:
- The ACMA receives complaints from consumers and investigates operators suspected of violating Canada’s gambling laws. The organization can also initiate an investigation on its own.
- The AMCA has the power to create industry standards for Canadian Internet Service Providers (ISPs) if they don’t have an industry code or follow ineffective industry codes.
- The ACMA alerts ISPs about unlicensed online gambling sites and directs them to block these sites as per the procedure outlined in their industry codes.
Why the Canadian Government Amended the IGA
The Canadian government amended the IGA for the following reasons:
- According to existing reports, Canadian players lose more than AU$24 billion per year while playing for real money at unlicensed online casinos.
- Canada’s per capita gambling loss is, therefore, approximately AU$1200 every year.
- Canada’s per capita gambling loss far exceeds the per capita gambling losses in the rest of the world.
- The Canadian government loses millions of CAD in tax revenue every year because of the gambling habits of its residents.
Latest Developments in Online Gambling Legalities in Canada
Canada continues to introduce new measures to control unlicensed online casinos, addiction to gambling, and problem gambling.
In 2019, existing gambling laws were again amended to enable residents to request self-exclusion at all gambling sites licensed in Canada. The new amendments led to the creation of the National Self Exclusion Register, which enables residents to self-exclude from Canada-licensed interactive betting sites with one step.
We can define self-exclusion as a player protection tool that enables players experiencing gambling harm to voluntarily get excluded from interactive gambling sites licensed in their country. The minimum self-exclusion period in Canada is three months.
Here is a list of other new measures that Canada has launched to eliminate problem gambling:
- The government began cracking down on all foreign online casinos accepting Canadian players.
- The ACMA received complaints about several offshore online casinos targeting Canadian players and ordered all ISPs in Canada to block access to them.
- The ACMA blocked Emu Casino and Fair Go Casino first because it had received 50+ complaints from players about unfair practices at these online casinos.
- This year, the ACMA received 75+ complaints from players about various online casinos accepting AU players. As a result, GW Casino, AU Slots, Joe Fortune, Casino Dingo, Top Bet Casino, XBet Casino, Roo Casino, Wager Beat, Ignition Casino, and many others are on the ACMA’s block list.
The purpose of giving the ACMA the power to block illegal online casinos and introducing player protection tools such as the National Self Exclusion Register is to protect Canadian players from the dangers of using online casinos not licensed in Canada.
Why You Should Not Play at Unlicensed Online Casinos
Getting cheated of your casino winnings at unlicensed online casinos is an experience that can be more devastating than losing your bet while playing at licensed online casinos.
Canadian players spend a lot of time playing their favorite games at online casinos that are licensed in offshore locations. You will not get into trouble with the law for doing so. However, we strongly recommend avoiding such online casinos because of the following dangers associated with them:
- Unlicensed online casinos unnecessarily delay payouts to force you to wager your casino winnings.
- Also, unlicensed online casinos do not permit large withdrawals.
- They nullify your winnings without giving any reason for doing so.
- They either pay progressive jackpot winnings in small monthly instalments or withhold them.
- Many of them have been found guilty of using pirated games and software.
- They also rig their RNGs to increase the house edge at the cost of players.
- Their customer care is poor, unresponsive, or non-existent.
- Their bonuses have unreasonable wagering requirements, and the bonus terms are vague.
- Deposit and withdrawal fees are unreasonably high at unlicensed online casinos.
- They can close down any time without a warning and disappear from the scene with players’ deposits.
- The government can block them at any time. If this happens, you will not be able to access your gaming account and withdraw your money.
How do we define an “unlicensed” online casino? All online casinos that accept players from your country without receiving a license from the gambling authority in your country are unlicensed online casinos even if they have received a gambling license in some other country.
Offshore online casinos that have obtained an Internet gambling license in another jurisdiction comply with the gambling regulations of their licensing jurisdiction. The Canadian government has no authority over these casinos. If you complain about unfair practices at these online casinos, the government can block the site, but cannot give you justice or help you get back lost funds.